The 2017 Royal Oak Hotel Cessnock Cup will be run this Friday (24 November) with a Calcutta to be held at the Royal Oak Hotel on Thursday at 7pm hosted by Gary Harley.
The Cessnock Cup is normally staged during the winter and Newcastle Jockey Club is confident that a Friday in November will attract an increase in TAB turnover on previous years. Such was the case with last month’s Jungle Juice Cup Race Day which was always held in early July.
TAB turnover on that day was up $1/2 million on the three previous years and the attendance was nearly double the previous year.
Cessnock’s Robert Thompson has been the Cessnock Cup’s most successful jockey winning the race five times while the retired Allan Robinson rode four Cup winners.
Two of Thompson’s winners Gay Scene (1987) and Trevino (1991) were trained by his late father Arthur. He won on Rosie Heir for veteran local trainer Beaney Jones in 1978 when still an apprentice. In 1983 “RT” piloted Full Alert to victory for Newcastle trainer Eric Sandford. Thompson’s last Cessnock Cup winner was in 1995 aboard the late Max Lees’s galloper Hot Aussie.
Warwick Farm trained Next Level with Mitchell Bell aboard won the 2016 Cessnock Cup for Golden Slipper-winning trainer Gary Portelli. Over the years a number of successful apprentice jockeys have been indentured to Cessnock trainers. Robert Thompson, of course, is the most famous while Queensland-based Scott Galloway and one of Newcastle’s leading jockeys Aaron Bullock also were educated on the Cessnock track.
The latest Cessnock apprentice to emerge with a bright future is 18-year-old Lexi McPherson who is indentured to Jeremy Sylvester. The young lady hails from Quorrobolong and she rode a winner on her first day of riding on Melbourne Cup Day.
Lexi had four rides at Taree that day and her final mount for the day Prince Coureuse saluted. Lexi has now had seven rides for a winner and a second.
The apprentice's older sister Cody was also a jockey. Sylvester speaks highly of the young hoop: “She is a quiet girl with a good attitude and is a quick learner. This girl just loves horses and she is off to a flying start,” Sylvester said.