By Doug Ryan
Rejuvenated and gifted local seven-year-old gelding O’Driscoll ($11 on TAB), has conditions to spring a surprise at good odds in the $32,000 Hopkins Livermore Cup over 1400m on Friday - the first day of the Taree Cup Carnival held by Manning Valley Race Club.
The Jessica McCusker-trained gelding, given to her by Port Macquarie trainer Tas Morton who has Mister Smartee in the race, won its last start at Port over 1500m, the horse leading at the 400m mark.
The galloper should be fitter after scoring at its first start since the Wauchope Cup over 1500m on June 14 and fine weather during the week could have the Bushland Drive Racecourse in at least a soft 5 range and maybe upgraded to good.
McCusker reckons O’Driscoll is better on firmer tracks (four wins) than that which were heavy at its last two starts. Since the win, she has reported that O’Driscoll has pulled up great: ”You wouldn’t know he has gone around.”
The gelding has had a new feeding regime and been the subject of intensive acupuncture work from McCusker to alleviate stress to the galloper’s neck, shoulder and other parts.
“He loves his new surroundings and quiet work on the former Gladstone track. I was worried when Port was a heavy track last start but he managed to get through it okay but this is a stronger field.”
In 43 starts O’Driscoll has had eight wins, one at the distance at Taree, five over 1500m, two seconds and two thirds for $121,000 prizemoney.
McCusker inherited the gelding from Morton as she had on numerous occasions been its strapper and was rewarded for her work around his stables.
Morton’s Mister Smartee ($12) has also won at the distance at the track, likes to bowl along up front, and will enjoy any drying of the track.
The horse ran third in the Wauchope Cup and after a four-length seventh over 1280m at Muswellbrook on August 2 was given a freshen up to try and win the cup named after two of his past Mid Coast racing friends.
The provincial stables have some top hopes but another one which has a chance from Taree is six-year-old mare Danzibar Dancer ($7), trained by Jim Louizos which had to give away 4kg to winner Mosht Up when a head second, first-up from a spell over 1300m when it led at Newcastle.
The Bowraville Cup winner over 1370m on September 21 is “much fitter”, according to Louizos, and “will run a good race.”
Wyong trainer Kim Waugh has a strong hand with last start winner Holy Reign ($3.20 favourite) and Manhattan Mist ($4). Holy Reign has raced at Taree for two seconds and won its last start over 1300m at Newcastle on August 8 whereas Manhattan Mist should be ready to perform at its best at its fourth run back from a spell.
Other horses worthy of consideration are Casirina ($7), a last start winner in the XXXX Gold Class 1 & Maiden Plate over 1600m, Highbury ($3.30) in the Saxbys Soft Drinks CG&E Maiden over 1250m, and Chief Havoc ($16) in the Horsepower Benchmark 58 Handicap over 1000m.
The first is trained on the track by Ross Stitt and the latter two by Colt Prosser at Wauchope.
RACE 1: Casirina 1, Total Recall 2, Superbank 3.
RACE 2: Pelgrave 1, Respectful 2, Xenanic 3.
RACE 3: Highbury 1, Apex 2, Lookonchina 3.
RACE 4: Chief Havoc 1, In A Step 2, Henschel 3.
RACE 5: A Fortunate Lass 1, Star Raider 2, Peachies Dream 3.
RACE 6: Apache Junction 1, Condover Hall 2, Reposition 3.
RACE 7: O’Driscoll 1, Holy Reign 2, Danzibar Dancer 3.
RACE 8: Bandahara 1, Discombe 2, New York Nick 3.