By Doug Ryan
Gallopers being aimed at the $32,000 Wauchope Cup at Port Macquarie on June 17 are looking to show form in the feature lead-up race at Manning Valley Race Club’s eight-race TAB meeting at Taree on Friday.
Port trainer Tas Morton has four-year-old gelding O’Driscoll ($5.50 on TAB fixed odds) in the lead-up race, the Johnson & Thompson Chartered Accountants Benchmark 60 Handicap over 1609m, but is looking at the skies to fine-up after soaking rain on Bushland Drive Racecourse.
He also has promising Mister Smartee ($3.80) in the WIN Television Class 2 Handicap over 1408m and it is being aimed at the $80,000 Grafton Guineas over 1600m on July 11: “A heavy track is a query for both of them but if the track gets to the soft, I would be more confident,” he said.
Morton has engaged local jockey Ben Looker, hoping to crash through 100 wins for the first time by the end of July, for both gallopers. O’Driscoll with Looker in the saddle couldn’t have been more impressive in scoring by nearly five lengths in a weaker race over 1500m in a record at Port on May 18.
“The horse has done extremely well since and his outside barrier may be a bonus if the track gets chopped up near the fence. He led all the way last start and makes his own luck.”
O’Driscoll has won twice in soft ground but in 15 starts has had only one start in the heavy for no placing. Morton said Mister Smartee, a big winner at Port prior to a spell, has been back in work six or seven weeks and is his stable’s galloper destined for better things.
O’Driscoll’s race has drawn some heavy track form hopes with Taree’s Chalcedony ($8.50), trained by Matthew Robinson, a winner in the going.
Chalcedony was beaten just under two lengths by Invicta in the Wingham Cup here last meeting and that followed three very close finishes here at its previous three starts, the horse having two wins and being placed runner-up three times in nine starts in heavy ground.
Taree trainer Ross Dawson has been happy with eight-year-old grey gelding Clunes Rocket’s ($12) two resuming runs at Taree and Grafton and the galloper has the benefit of a 3kg claim with apprentice jockey Kellie Holding.
I Am Awesome ($3.70 favourite) has won three races on good tracks in seven starts and should it handle the conditions, looks to be the one to beat after a win at Muswellbrook and then a last start second to Strome over 1600m at Wyong on May 22.
One galloper adept in the wet and should be hard to beat is Saint Denis ($8), trained at Port by Matthew McCudden, the horse drawing a decent alley for once in the GPB Partners, Accountants and Business Advisors Class 1 Handicap over 1255m.
He said that jockey Belinda Hodder told him there was merit in the gelding’s fifth at Grafton last start as the gelding was learning to settle better and come home: “He knows two speeds, fast and slow, and it is a matter of harnessing them for the better.”
RACE 1: Loban Hood 1, Classy Anna 2, Outsmartem 3.
RACE 2: Jexerlent 1, Libertine Miss 2, Cheljoe 3.
RACE 3: Gordon’s Leap 1, Brixton Town 2, Through The Cracks 3.
RACE 4: Karlu Dreaming 1, Spanish Steps 2, But I Know 3.
RACE 5: Tejaan 1, Miss Emiar 2, Rebellion 3.
RACE 6: Clevanicc 1, Mister Smartee 2, Pindara 3.
RACE 7: Saint Denis 1, Ondo Pasa 2, Oh No Not Again 3.
RACE 8: I Am Awesome 1, O’Driscoll 2, Chalcedony 3.