By Doug Ryan
Port Macquarie trainer Tas Morton’s bid for upcoming country cups starts with two of his gallopers at Taree on Tuesday. They are five-year-old gelding Don’t Nicme and seven-year-old gelding New Divide, both being nominated for the feature Winning Post Function Centre Handicap over 1312m.
Top Port jockey Peter Graham had the pick of the two and chose Don’t Nicme whereas Sydney's top apprentice Andrew Adkins returns to his home track to ride New Divide at Taree-Wingham Race Club’s TAB meeting. Both gallopers are resuming and last campaign divided their starts between the country and city.
“They have come back really good and they just needed a break to get ready for the cups,” Morton said. Don’t Nicme won over 1450m at Kempsey on 5 September and then had an unsuccessful Port Macquarie Cup campaign before a Rosehill run and then being spelled. In five campaigns, the gelding has won and been runner-up on two occasions and has won over 1350m.
Morton said Don’t Nicme was being aimed at the $35,000 Walcha Cup over 1440m on 10 February. Also in mind is the $40,000 Akubra Quirindi Cup over 1600m on 24 February.
New Divide will probably go to Grafton after Taree and then be aimed for the $40,000 Armidale Cup over 1900m on 20 March: “Both gallopers worked really well together in smart time on Monday.”
Taree trainer Michael Byers is pleased with the progress of six-year-old mare Sheza Gypsy since winning the Harrington Hotel Cup over 1300m on 5 January. Hall Of Fame jockey Robert Thompson gave the mare a good front-running ride but as he is in New Zealand the ride will go to Matt McGuren.
“Even though she won a Country Championships qualifier, I will keep her to country grade as she is much older now and has had a few issues,” he said.
Port trainer Neil Godbolt has nominated five-year-old gelding Dixie Lad which won its last race by 1.5 lengths over 1500m at his home track on 7 January. The horse has had a freshen up and has won two races at the Bushland Drive Racecourse. Also adding interest is another last start winner, seven-year-old gelding Ekibuuka, trained at Coffs Harbour by Brett Dodson.
Also nominated are Jack The Ringer, trained at Wauchope by Grant Prosser, and Coffs gelding Murvate, trained by Gordon Yorke. Those two finished fourth and fifth respectively behind Ekibuuka.
Scone seven-year-old gelding He’s Dreamin’, trained by Rodney Northam, is having its first start since a fourth to Opinion over 3200m in the Stayer’s Cup at Randwick on 11 June.
Warwick Farm trainer David Pfieffer is thought to have never been to Taree with a runner but he has nominated two, four-year-old geldings Denzil and As good As It Gets, both last start winners. Denzil is in the XXXX Gold CG & E Benchmark 55 Handicap over 1257m and won over 1200m in the heavy at Nowra on December 31.
As Good As It Gets, in the Saxbys Soft Drinks Class 1 Handicap-Heat of the Rising Star over 1614m, won over 1600m at Orange on November 18 but has since run sixth in a trial. Last start big winner, four-year-old mare Happy, trained at Wyong by Allan Denham, is a big hope in the same race.
About 120 strong nominations have been carded for the meeting, the last before the big 'Showcase TAB meeting' featuring the MNCRA $150,000 Country Championships qualifier on Sunday 26 February.