By Doug Ryan
Hall of Fame jockey Robert Thompson should celebrate his 59th birthday with a win from a good book of rides at Taree Wingham Race Club’s nine-race TAB meeting at Bushland Drive Racecourse on Monday.
His birthday is on Saturday so any win will be a belated one, although he did have an early present at Cessnock on May 2 when he notched a winning treble to take his tally for the season to 48.
One that could be a winner for him at Taree is six-year-old local mare Who Is Game, trained by Michael Byers, in the feature Stacks Law Firm Benchmark 65 Handicap over 1412m.
Thompson rode the six times winner in a Benchmark 65 Handicap over 1100m at Port Macquarie on April 28 and was a victim of circumstances with an unlucky ninth behind eight-year-old Tuncurry gelding Not Doubtful, being beaten only 2.6 lengths.
“My horse would have finished closer but for being caught up in a scrimmage in the straight,” Byers said. “Robert said he just ran into their backsides.”
Byers said Who Is Game had some unlucky starts in Sydney last campaign, one of them being beaten a neck to Little Miss Brown over 1600m at Warwick Farm on December 21.
“She has done well since her first up run from a freshen up.”
He hopes to aim the mare for the rich Taree Gold Cup on his home track in August.
“She has won over 1800m and I think it would be a good race for her.
“They said my galloper Mountain Echo couldn’t run out the 2000m of the cup and he was only beaten a half-head by Wyong’s All Tanked Up (trained by Neville McBurney).”
Byers is hoping to give Thompson plenty of chances to have a win as he has booked him for other gallopers from his stable, one being Groomaze, which Thompson has won on before, in the Mid Coast Automotive Group Benchmark 55 Handicap over 1312m.
Port Macquarie trainer John Sprague is out to spoil the party for Who Is Game with his improving four-year-old mare Jemily which he considered a hope for the Country Final of The Championships, it running ninth to Cogliere in the Taree qualifier.
That was four starts back but since then she hasn’t been out of a place at Armidale (twice) and Port Macquarie. Port was her last run over 1500m on April 28 and she led before just being run down to finish three-quarters of a length third behind Solicitation which has since placed at Kempsey.
“My mare is much fitter and the distance suits,” said Sprague.
“I thought she put in a good run at Port and she could be back to her best form.
“She has had a few niggly problems and she will be ridden by Peter Graham.
“She is the type which is prone to many things, such as stone bruises.”
He said that if she didn’t win she would be eligible for a class 3 TAB Highway race over 1500m at Rosehill on May 20.
“She ran a good race in one of them in the past.”
Another top hope in the race is Port six-year-old gelding Explosive Scene, trained by Marc Quinn, which won at Port on February 11 and hasn’t been further back than fourth in three starts since at Kempsey, Mudgee and Newcastle.
“My horse is in good shape and has been anchored by big weights and been beaten by better horses.”
Quinn has booked Irish apprentice jockey Robbie Dolan, who had his first winner in Australia a fortnight ago, to take advantage of his 3kg claim.
Dolan has also been given the ride on Quinn’s filly Phoenix Sunrise in the Class 1 Handicap over 1250m.
The trainer is keen for Explosive Scene to tackle the $25,000 Wingham Cup over 1600m at Taree on June 2 and the $32,000 Wauchope Cup over 1500m at Port on June 18.
Warwick Farm trainer Greg Hickman adds plenty of interest to the card with Zooming and All About Magic in the Mid Coast Automotive Group Benchmark 55 Handicap over 1312m.
“The track is a credit to the club,” he said.
DOUG RYAN’S SELECTIONS RACE 1: Amare 1, Renown 2, Quite Unexpected 3. RACE 2: Eyota 1, Mohe County 2, Great Grats 3. RACE 3: Chastity Strikes 1, Sojournist 2, Lights Of Como 3. RACE 4: Westover 1, Our Consolation 2, Tarboy 3. RACE 5: Oakfield Tycoon 1, Smithtown 2, Demoralising 3. RACE 6: Our Chad 1, Irish Duke 2, No Effort Needed 3. RACE 7: Too Fast For Love 1, Surely Not 2, Phoenix Sunrise 3. RACE 8: Who Is Game 1, Jemily 2, Explosive Scene 3. RACE 9: Groomaze 1, Brilliant Meteor 2, Zooming 3.