By Geoff Newling
Thomson River enters Friday’s $20,000 Tamworth Cup Sunday April 29 Mornington Prelude (2100m) as the epitome of a racing underdog. The five-year-old bay gelding is yet to win in 23 race starts while his seven opponents have won 43 races between them.
Thomson River, a son of Niccolini, has won just over $12,000 in prizemoney for owner Errol French while his opponents have won between $68,000 and $132,000 in prizemoney. Craig Clegg trains the maidener from his Kootingal stable and knows he has a task to beat the other seven.
“Everyone that has ridden him for me has always said he’s looking for more of a journey,” Craig Clegg said. “There aren’t too many distance races in the vicinity but there was this 2100m on Friday so I thought I'd throw him in.
"He ran over 1700m at Walcha and ran nice (second). It was only a non-TAB race but the previous day Royal Villa had won over the 1700m and ran a second and a bit quicker than him but then went to Sydney in one of those Highway races and sat outside the leader and ran a good race.
“He’s drawn well (3) and Robert Thompson is going to ride him; can’t get better than that. I’ll leave it up to Robert and the good thing is he’ll be able to tell me when he comes back whether I was shooting for the stars or whether to put him back into his own grade.”
Clegg is better known in the harness racing circles but branched out into the thoroughbreds around two years ago. He now has seven thoroughbreds in work and also has a pacer ready to go back into work “when the weather cools off".
Thomson River might not have won a race yet for owner Errol French but Craig hopes to rectify that soon: “He’s been a good supporter for me. Him and Phillip Lyne. Phillip’s got half (of his horses) and Errol the other half.”
Clegg still trains out of his Kootingal stable where “I can do all the work with them and then go to the Tamworth track for fast work”. He will also start debutante Cathedral Lass on Friday and hopes she can measure up.
“She’s a big strong filly, by Benfica,” he said. “Had quite a few jump outs and a barrier trial at Tamworth. Ran about fifth in that and went nice. She’s also showed a little bit at the track.”
As far as the Mornington Prelude goes, with its exemption from ballot in the April 29 $50,000 Mornington, he’s hopeful.
“Stirling (Osland) has a mare that goes all right (Exilia Miss) and Justin’s (Blanch) goes all right too but there is only eight in it. The main thing for me was the distance suits. It’s going to be a task but we’ll have a look.”