Hawkesbury opens the curtain on a new racing year on Wednesday; giving two jockeys on the move the opportunity to take centre stage. Both have ridden nearly 500 winners between them but Hawkesbury is yet to figure among the list.
One has had 13 rides at the track for three placings, and the other is making her NSW provincial debut. Each has only the one mount on the seven-race program, and they are strongly fancied.
Aaron Bullock, who made the switch from Singleton to Newcastle six months ago, partners his recent Taree winner Zigamore in the RAAF Base Richmond Benchmark 65 Handicap (1800m). While Katelyn Mallyon, who recently shifted from Melbourne to try her hand in Sydney, rides Commanding Witness in the Bob & Julie Carroll 40th Anniversary Class 1 Handicap (1300m).
Bullock rides work at Broadmeadow principally for Kris Lees – who provided him with a city breakthrough on Sugar Bella at Royal Randwick on January 13 – but also helps out fellow Newcastle trainer Jason Deamer.
“I’m now living only a few minutes from the track, and usually get there a bit earlier and ride one for Jason before I start work with Kris,” Bullock said last night. “Jason put me on Zigamore when he won at Taree earlier this month, and I’m happy to stick with him at Hawkesbury, particularly as I can ride him comfortably at his 60.5kg.”
Bullock’s only previous ride on Zigamore, coincidentally, was at Hawkesbury 20 months ago when he finished fifth (beaten just over two lengths) to Proane in a Class 2 Handicap (1600m).
“The race was a bit short for him that day,” Bullock recalled. “Zigamore needs everything to go his way, but is very competitive when it does. He has taken a few runs to get fit, and is ready to take the next step up in distance to 1800m.”
Zigamore, a five-year-old by Excellent Art, has raced 19 times for four wins and nine placings. He carried 58.5kg when successful in a Class 3 Handicap (1600m) at Taree on January 4, holding off Bochy, who confirmed the form by winning easily at the same track 11 days later.
Bullock has ridden 218 winners and, with 46 already under his belt since August 1, is on track to better last season’s personal best of 55. But he has to work hard on and off the track to stay in the saddle and ride at 56kg. He pounded the suburban streets of Newcastle for a couple of hours late yesterday afternoon, jogging and walking to help keep his weight in check.
“It’s something I do late every afternoon on non-racedays,” Bullock said. “I’ve got a busy week with bookings at Taree (today), the Showcase meeting at Tamworth on Thursday, Port Macquarie on Friday and Kembla Grange on Saturday.”
Mallyon has ridden 263 winners, and co-trainers Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott have given her a great opportunity to make a successful NSW provincial debut. Her mount Commanding Witness has raced only three times, and returns to the scene of his only triumph to date. He won a 2YO Maiden Plate (1000m) at Hawkesbury on July 6 last year at only his second start.
The Star Witness three-year-old has trialled three times in preparation for his resumption, and won his latest over 1050m at Randwick on January 12. He also got reacquainted with Hawkesbury when second in an 800m trial there on December 18.
Apprentice Simone Vella also makes her NSW provincial debut (on a professional level) when she rides locally-trained Next Witness in the Abax Contracting Metro & Provincial Maiden Plate (1500m). When an approved rider, Vella had five mounts at two Gosford picnic meetings in late 2016, and rode a winner (Dantrist) there in a 1600m Maiden on Melbourne Cup day.
Hawkesbury trainer Jamie Thomsen has opted to run his dual acceptor Manhattan Drive in the Easy Lane Provincial & Country Maiden (1100m), and Jeff Penza has the mount. Thomsen has withdrawn the gelding from the Richmond Club Maiden Plate (1100m), for which he was topweight with 59kg. Manhattan Drive has 4kg less in the former race, and has a good chance to break through after five placings.
The rail is in the TRUE position for tomorrow’s meeting, and the track this morning was rated a “Good 4”, with a penetrometer reading of 4.83. A total of 3mm of irrigation has been put on the track in the last 24 hours, and 35mm in the last seven days. No rainfall has been recorded in the same period.
RACE 1: CYRUS ROCKS, Open Road, Sacred Edge.
RACE 2: COMMANDING WITNESS, Kathaire, The Patrician.
RACE 3: ANGEL’S BOY, Thirty Knots, Tarabai.
RACE 4: FIFTH AFFAIR, Manhattan Drive, Private Idaho.
RACE 5: BELLA VELLA, Florid, Star Aspiration.
RACE 6: STELLA VICTORIA, Lake Hayes, Kathmandu.
RACE 7: ZIGAMORE, My Friend Charlie, Hurricane Harbour.