By Doug Ryan
Port Macquarie trainer Marc Quinn is hoping his galloper Cogliere ($3.50 favourite on TAB fixed odds) can go one better than last year and win the $32,000 Wauchope RSL Club Wauchope Cup (1506m) at Port Macquarie Racecourse on Sunday.
Provincial gelding Brazen, trained at Scone by Brett Cavanough, beat Cogliere by two lengths and even though that trainer doesn’t have a runner this year, there are strong chances from provincial stables this year.
However, the Mid North Coast contingent could fight out the cup and if Cogliere wins it, that will be Quinn’s third Wauchope Cup having scored with Explosive Scene in 2017 and Storm Ahead in 2014.
It has been a good cup for the family because Quinn’s late father, Pat, also won the cup when he shifted from Sydney to Port Macquarie with Seen Im in 2008.
“My horse has worked enormous for the cup and I expect him to be hard to beat,” Marc said. “I think he is as good as if not better than when he was second last year.
“His last run in Sydney (6.9 lengths 8th to Asterius over 1500m at Rosehill) was sound because he couldn’t sprint when needed and I can’t fault him since.
“There were excuses last year when he got in an awkward position and I only need a good run from my barrier,” he said.
The Mid North Coast’s top jockey, Ben Looker, from Port has been engaged and he is in good form after multiple wins at Taree and then scoring on Port’s Victorem at Eagle Farm on Saturday.
But Taree trainer Wayne Wilkes is also brimming with confidence, especially after he and 24-yar-old Irish apprentice Louise Day scored with Subtle Grey in the $28,000 Wingham Cup at Taree last Friday.
He has course and distance specialist Fuel ($4.20) read to show his best at its fourth run back from a spell.
Like Cogliere, Fuel’s city form around the distance is excellent, the six-year-old gelding scoring over 1550m at Canterbury on December 14, its last race before a spell.
Wilkes said of his charge: ”He has done everything right. This is probably his best distance and I am very happy with him.
“Last start (7th at Rosehill) he worked too hard from a wide barrier and as he is a free-running type this field should suit.”
Port trainer Tas Morton is always the supreme optimist and he has forgiven his gelding O’Driscoll ($23) its abject failure in running last in the cup at Taree on Friday.
“The first half-mile was ridiculously run ... he was taken on for the front, worked hard and there was nothing left in the tank.
“He worked well on Wednesday and Pete (Port jockey Peter Graham) has the ride again and should be forgiven for what happened the other day. O’Driscoll loves the distance and the track,” he said.
Morton also has Komachi Force ($17) resuming from a spell in the race and he said she could surprise.
Biggest threats to the local gallopers could be Kris Lees's Sydney winner Our Gravano ($5.50), as well as the two Eagle Farm visitors from the stable of Lauren Herne in Gold Symphony ($11) and nearly $400,000 prizemoney winner Estikhraaj ($8).
It is also surprising to see Taree mare Cash Spinner ($19), scratched at the barrier due to soreness at Taree last Friday, running for Ross Stitt, the horse having won several country cups.
An interesting runner resuming and could run a big race is Taree’s five-year-old mare Valbeata ($5), trained by Bob Milligan, in the M&S Print Wauchope Sprint over 1106m.
Milligan’s son, Glen, said the mare has had a couple of jump outs and normally races well fresh, she having three seconds last year before scoring at Taree over 1250m on January 14.
Taree hoop Matt Bennett takes the ride on the mare which should race well fresh and is suited by any give in the track.
Milligan said races in Sydney or at Grafton during the cup carnival could be on her agenda if she races up to that standard.
RACE 1: Hibern 1, Full Of Spirit 2, The Timewarp 3.
RACE 2: Mended 1, Valley’s Sister 2, Night Terror 3.
RACE 3: East Esplanade 1, Lunar Tramp 2, Monaco Sniper 3.
RACE 4: Valbeata 1, Patriot 2, Prince Mayted 3.
RACE 5: Little Funny Bunny 1, Veganza 2, Lucitor 3.
RACE 6: Scenic Flight 1, Gold Skye 2, Azarmin 3.
RACE 7: Cogliere 1, Fuel 2, Our Gravano 3.
RACE 8: Just Sizzling 1, I’ll Take Money 2, Bangalley Lad 3.