By Geoff Newling
Northern Knight could be headed towards a TAB Highway Handicap in Sydney after he continued his unbeaten run at Lismore today.
The Brett Bellamy-trained four-year-old gelding son of Bon Hoffa made it two wins in two starts when he led all the way to win the Book Your Cup Day Package Now Class 1 Handicap (1200m) in impressive fashion. Ray Spokes rode the gelding and is the gelding’s biggest fan.
“Hopefully he will keep improving,” Ray spokes told Sky Thoroughbred Central. “It was only his fourth time in the barriers today and is just getting better and better. As long as he keeps going forward we will be happy.”
Coffs Harbour trainer Brett Bellamy was delighted with the authoritative win: “He did really well today,” he said. “Ray wouldn’t have him getting beat after the way he worked the other day. I haven’t seen Ray as rapt with a horse for years.”
Earlier, Queensland trainers dominated the first three or four races with Gold Coast-based Les Kelly and Helen Page winning the first two races with Freddie Fox Trot and Ned’s Round respectively. Murwillumbah’s Darren Graham then popped up to win the Hernes Freight Service 3YO and Up Maiden (1516m) with Walk Of Shame.
A four-year-old gelding son of Love Conquers all walk Of Shame was coming off a 17 week spell and an unlucky return at the Gold Coast: “He’s a nice horse,” said trainer Darren Graham. “Had a few little hiccups at the Gold Coast and didn’t have a lot of luck.” He was having his eighth start at Lismore and will benefit from the patience Graham has taken with him.
Whodunnit then handed Eagle Farm trainer Les Ross a good trip back across the border when she grabbed first starter Longtga in the final few strides for a win in The Northern Star Plate 4YO and Up Maiden (1200m). “She’s a nice little horse, only small,” Les Ross said. “I thought she was a good each-way chance today.”
Jackson Morris rode the four-year-old daughter of Court Command and was a little worried he “got a little but further back from the gate (16)” than he wanted: “She was bolting at the 600m but it was like a demolition derby to get out.”
Once she did find fresh air she finished powerfully to upset the long-priced upset the Danielle Cunningham-trained Longtga would have provided at $70.
Bonne Cheval later made it a bonny day for Coffs Harbour trainer Brett Bellamy at Lismore. Bellamy had won earlier in the day with impressive and unbeaten Northern Knight and after Anne Bonny had won the sixth race for his Lismore trainer Owen Glue, Bellamy celebrated a “bonny” double when Bonne Cheval won the Lismore Cup 21st September Benchmark 67 Handicap (1200m).
The six-year-old daughter of Murphy’s Blu Boy had returned from a long spell with an outstanding win on her home Coffs track and franked that effort with another impressive performance today, beating fellow Coffs trained horses Oltre Finito and Fashion Model into the minor placings. She was having her 23rd run and collected her sixth win as well with teenage apprentice Cejay Graham on board.
Graham has ridden 21 winners in her short career and was at her best again today. “Nice to see the little girl going so good,” winning trainer Brett Bellamy said. He is also delighted to see Bonne Cheval “back up so well” from her win return.
She had raced in last year’s Country Championships but wasn’t “quite up to them”. “She ran some nice races last time,” Bellamy said. “She’s come back better and is a lot more settled this time in.”
Meanwhile, Anne Bonny returned to her best form after overpowering a good field on her home Lismore track today.
The Owen Glue-trained mare had returned to winning form at Lismore at her previous start when she won a benchmark 54 handicap on July 22. She had beaten the Daniel Bowen-trained Hope Island by 1.36 lengths that day and beat her fellow Lismore-trained horse again today when a comprehensive winner of the Lismore & District Workers Club Benchmark 55 Handicap (1400m).
Sky Thoroughbred Central’s Gary Kliese and Priscilla Schmidt had nothing praise for the mare as well as Belinda Hodder’s ride: “It was a 10 out 10 ride,” Kliese said.
Belinda Hodder had just the one ride for the day and made a winning decision to “pop out” and keep Just Truckin in a pocket.
“She’s drawn a good barrier and comes out two,” she said before the race. “She will go very close.” She went better than that to make it win number five at her 20th start.
It was also her third win in four starts on her home track for Owen Glue who admitted she lost all form last preparation when she raced in blinkers. He took the blinkers off this time in and it seems she is a rejuvenated horse.
“She’s a real fighter, got her fight back,” he said. “She’s going better than ever this preparation.”
Daniel Bowen’s Hope island lost no admirers either when he raced home late for second. He had finished second in Saturday’s Casino Cup when he was unable to get out until the race was all over. He backed up well to notch a seventh runner-up cheque in a career that has also included three wins and seven thirds.
Lismore Turf Club is also preparing for its Cup carnival on Thursday, September 21. It is part of a trio of Cup meetings with Murwillumbah and Ballina also about to launch massive meetings. Tweed River Jockey Club begins that Cup run on Friday, August 25 when they stage the $38,000 Murwillumbah Cup (1530m) while Ballina Jockey Club runs the $65,000 Ballina Showcase Cup (1600m) on Thursday, September 7.
Nominations for the Murwillumbah Cup meeting close at 11am next Monday, August 21.