By Geoff Newling
Image of Love may just provide her Armidale trainer with his first Christmas ham when the daughter of Ready’s Image contests tomorrow’s $20,000 Mannion Drilling/Ultrafleet Christmas Hams Cup (1600m) at Gunnedah’s Riverside Racecourse.
The four-year-old bay mare, winner of three of her 19 starts, is one of the main chances in a competitive benchmarked 65 feature race including the likes of Lonely Orphan (Lesley Jeffriess), Wild Cavalier (Gayna Williams) and Latitat (William Wain).
Paul Grills prepares the mare in Armidale and thinks she is a chance when Peter Graham jumps her from barrier seven in the metric mile. Winning at Gunnedah’s traditional Christmas Hams meeting guarantees the trainer a magnificent ham on top of the regular prizemoney. That would be an added bonus, Paul Grills said today.
“Haven’t won a ham at Gunnedah yet,” he said. “Would be nice.” Image Of love hasn’t won at Gunnedah either although the mare has been placed there in her only two starts. “Ran second to a handy one there as a two-year-old,” Paul Grills said. “Probably should have won that and the winner (Dynamic Dynasty) was a pretty handy two-year-old too.
Image Of love ran third to A Magic Zariz at Gunnedah earlier this year (May) and had three runs back in this preparation, culminating with a seventh to the Mack Griffith-trained Schedule in a recent Highway Handicap at Rosehill.
“She didn’t get away in Sydney,” he recalled. “Got beat by about s far as she missed the start. It was a good effort. She should take a bit of beating but there is also a couple of handy ones in it too.”
Tomorrow’s Christmas Hams Cup could also be the launching pad to Inverell and Armidale Cup missions for the mare. Paul is considering backing her up in a 1900m at Armidale and then an Inverell Cup or a 1500m B55 at Inverell. Depending on how she fares in those upcoming races Paul could also aim at winning another Armidale Cup early next year.
Another Grills, Tamworth trainer Sue Grills, is also hoping for some success at Gunnedah tomorrow. Speaking from Muswellbrook today, where she had Blinkin Fast engaged in a strong 1280m Class 3 at the Muswellbrook Gold Cup meeting, she gave The Gun a good chance in tomorrow’s $20,000 Gunnedah Taxi & Cabs Merry Christmas Class 1 Handicap (1000m).
“He won at Coonabarabran and ran a real good third at Quirindi,” Sue Grills said. “Got chopped out. Should run a nice race (at Gunnedah) in the Class 1.”
She has “four in” at Gunnedah tomorrow, three of whom are maideners. “He’s probably my only chance of winning a ham,” she said.