By Doug Ryan
Local trainer Barry Ratcliff has mostly been in hospital since July 10 and needs a win with mare Pomme Petite at Wauchope Jockey Club’s TAB meeting at Kempsey on Monday to lift his spirits.
Ratcliff hopes she can win or go close in the M & S Print Benchmark 65 Handicap over 1450m to then try to realise his dream of winning the Kempsey Cup over the same distance on November 10.
Ratcliff, aged 67, has been training at Kempsey for 33 years and has gone close to winning his home town cup on five occasions. He has had seconds with Sunrich and Flojo, a third with Top Wave, and two fourths.
“If she goes well on Monday, I will give her a brief let-up and aim her for the Kempsey Cup.” A win would not only give him immense joy but also owners Peter Garlick, on the committee of Port Macquarie Race Club and Rick Edwards, of Kempsey Fast Foods.
Ratcliff’s last win was with Malleable at odds of $81 in the Sawtell Cup over 1515m on July 23 when he was in hospital. He has had three operations for an injury and circulation problems since and is due back in hospital for another operation.
“I am getting around on crutches and boy it hurts. The boys and my foreman of 22 years, Greg Roxburg, have been doing most of the work with the horses with me overseeing.” Pomme Petite has won four races, two of them at Kempsey, the other two at Coffs Harbour, one of them over 1308m, her longest win.
“If she wins on Monday over the same distance as the cup, I will aim her for it. My usual jockey is out but the capable Belinda Hodder takes the mount. There hasn’t been that much around for my horse but she races best when she is fresh,” Ratcliff said. At her last start she was beaten a neck by Port galloper Drummed Out over 1265m at Taree on August 10 after leading most of the way.
The field poses plenty of opposition with possibly six-year-old mare Mosgiel Ruby, trained at Taree by Matthew Robinson, the winner of eight races, nearing a win again. She won three of her last four starts before a spell and has returned with a fourth and an 8th to Gosford gelding Randiki over 1400m on Taree Cup day.
An interesting runner having its first try in Mid North Coast company is five-year-old gelding Command Hunter, trained by Peter Evans who about six months ago shifted from Queensland to Coffs Harbour to train. The gelding has recent wins at Lismore and Coffs Harbour, the latter with Port apprentice Cejay Graham in the saddle and she again takes the ride.
After the Coffs win Command Hunter was fifth (beaten 1.63 lengths) in a Benchmark 65 Handicap over 1300m at Wyong on August 4. Another galloper which is trained at Kempsey and has posted two wins and two thirds there from seven starts is five-year-old mare Wonderful Thing, trained by Hilary Dew.
She showed a return to form with a third to Written Song at Port over 1210m and can improve on a good track, the surface for all of her four wins. Dew found his mare had a bad blood count when out of form and she is now “coming right and got to the line well at Port.”