By Doug Ryan
An influx of characters of the turf enjoying the marvellous social atmosphere will be greeted with 10-year-old local galloper Xerxes Dream trying to win back-to-back $9000 Woop Woop Cups at Wauchope Jockey Club’s biggest crowd meeting of the year on Boxing Day.
The old marvel, trained on the hills around Long Flat by Michael O’Neill for himself, wife, Faye, and father, Pat, will be having its 114th start and trying to notch its fifth win at 1800m at the course.
Acceptances for the meeting will bet known later this week but the trainer said “it is a Wauchope meeting and Xerxes Dream will be there.
“He is still sound and enjoys his racing,” he said.
Xerxes Dream last raced over 2100m at Tuncurry last week but was unplaced to Kempsey gelding Golden Words, trained by Julie Lynch. O’Neill said his gelding may have been underdone and probably needed a stronger rider than an apprentice. He was hoping to get the “king” of riding the Wauchope track, premier Port Macquarie jockey Peter Graham, who was Xerxes Dream’s jockey last year, to again do the steering.
Graham joked last year that the win was “easy—bolted in” after scoring by a half head from Lord Avril, trained on the track by Grant Prosser who said he won’t have a starter in this year’s event.
Xerxes Dream personifies what country racing is all about and that is probably why the gelding does his best at the picturesque country track. Among his most notable wins have been three consecutive wins in the Old Boys Cup at the track and distance. Xerxes Dream will be aiming for his 11th win, also having had 14 placings and a win will take its prizemoney to over $100,000.
O’Neill describes his lovable gelding as a “true bread and butter horse,” one that gives his best and helps pay his way.
“Dad used to ride his horse to the local pub and tie him up outside and you could do the same with Xerxes.
“You can’t do this type of thing now because of traffic and the possibility of being hit by a semi-trailer.
The gelding arrived from Meringo Stud unbroken and the O’Neills broke him in and from day one has been a dream to train.
“I ride him up the hills and he goes for a swim in the Hastings River just behind the pub.”
O’Neill may also start well-performed Stoddart, which is nearing a win, at the meeting.
Club president Greg Partridge said Hastings Co-Op was sponsoring this year’s cup and was to be the sponsor for the next couple of years. He said his committee and staff were geared up for another big day following Christmas day.
“It is like a reunion for many people, catching up with friends and relatives in a highly convivial atmosphere.”
A Fashions On The Field Competition will be held where valuable vouchers can be won.