By Doug Ryan
Newcastle training brothers David and Phillip Atkins grabbed four of the eight winners in a rout for visiting trainers at Taree Wingham Race Club’s nine-race meeting on Monday.
It was David who excelled with three winners, including three-year-old gelding Fratellino ($10) for jockey Andrew Gibbons in the feature Stacks Law Firm Benchmark 65 Handicap over 1412m.
His other winners were Renown ($4.40) for jockey Alison Threadwell in the Manning River Times Handicap (Div.2) over 1412m and Image First ($26), ridden by Luke Cumberland, in the Wingham Beef Exports Maiden Handicap (Div.1) over 1412m.
His brother was all smiles when Merriwa ($11), another mount for Cumberland, had a long head win in the De Bortoli Wines Maiden Handicap over 1007m.
The lone local galloper to win was heavily backed favourite ($3.50 to $2.30) four-year-old mare Snitzel’s Image, the only ride for apprentice Mikayla Weir on the card, trained on the track by Ross Stitt, in the Mid Coast Automotive Group Benchmark 55 Handicap over 1312m.
It was having its second win for a syndicate headed by Stitt, the chairman of the race club, Greg Coleman, his wife Christine, former local mayor Eddie Loftus, his daughter and the 15 Lengths Syndicate.
Fratellino overcame a wide barrier to lead most of the way to score from Port Macquarie mare Jemily ($6), trained by John Sprague, with third going to Taree mare Who Is Game ($10), trained by Michael Byers.
Hall Of Fame jockey Robert Thompson was favoured to celebrate his 59th birthday on Saturday with a win on Who Is Game but that honour and reasons for celebration came in the race before, the XXXX Gold Class 1 Handicap over 1257m with mare Teravette ($3.50), trained by his good mate Les Tilley from Wyong, scoring by a short neck.
David Atkins never fronted the winner’s stall as he was kept busy attending to a flat tyre on his float.
Ailie Morris from the stable said Fratellino’s improvement resulted from the addition of blinkers. She said the gelding seemed to see race rivals coming at its previous start when ninth at Muswellbrook and frightened itself out of the finish, hence the success with blinkers.
“It was a tough win and he can maintain a good cruising speed,” said Gibbons.
Both Sprague and Byers were happy with the runs of their charges and they may go next to the $25,000 Wingham Cup over 1600m at Taree on June 2. Threadwell also believed the addition of blinkers aided the three lengths win by three-year-old gelding Renown.
“He finished the race off well,” she said.
Cumberland said Image First had finally shown his true self as the four-year-old gelding had good form in trials and work but didn’t replicate it in races until its win.
Phillip Atkins also put blinkers on Merriwa to “sharpen her up” and it worked for the three-year-old filly which also earned a BOBS bonus.
“Her last few runs have been okay but she is only little and needs to grow more,” he said.
Owner Terry Maher paid $17,000 for her as a weanling and was happy she had overcome an injury as a youngster.
Gosford trainer Fred Cowell only recently got out of hospital and listened in his car to his three-year-old filly Sojournist ($2.50 to $1.70) do him proud with a nose win in the 2RE & Max FM Maiden Plate over 1257m.
Jockey Chris O’Brien was lucky to stay on top when the filly ran about 100m from the finishing post and if it had gone straight probably would have won by several lengths.
Former jockey Ben Hill from Wyong had his second win in a career tally of two when three year-old filly Billabong Cindy, ridden by apprentice Jackson Murphy, scored again at the track in the Saxbys Soft Drinks Class 2 Handicap over 1007m in a class record.
Newcastle trainer Jason Deamer kept up his good winning strike rate at Taree with filly No Effort Needed ($3.50), ridden by Chad Lever, scoring by a half-neck in the Prime News Country Class 1 Plate over 1614m.