By Mark Brassel
First-hand knowledge of the course could play an integral part in a battling Walcha trainer claiming next Friday’s $200,000 Port Macquarie Cup (2000m).
George Woodward prepares a small team on Walcha Racecourse and would dearly love to win the Cup with the in-form Tom’s Knight, having trained on the track several years back.
“I used to train at Port and take my horses to the beach, but I’ve now been at Walcha for seven or eight years,” Woodward said.
Tom’s Knight has become a revelation after taking out the Port Macquarie Cup Prelude (1812m) last weekend with a daring ride by Jeff Penza.
Penza whipped around the field 800m from home then kicked clear well before the home turn, establishing a big break on his rivals to score by nearly five lengths.
“It was a set plan,” Woodward admitted. “I used to ride trackwork at Port with Pete Graham, so I know the course very well.
“It’s a track where you can’t sit and hold up until straightening unless the horse has a powerful sprint; you’ve got to get going well before the turn.
“The win surprised me as he ran nearly one full second quicker than they did in the same race last year.”
The form of Tom’s Knight has been excellent in the 15 starts since Woodward acquired him from Victoria, having won three races and along with four placings the horse has accrued nearly $60,000 in prizemoney.
“I bought him as a tried horse online and he’s kept the stable going. When he raced in Victoria, they were running him over 1200m and 1400m.
“I soon realised he is a stayer and the first time I put him over 2100m he went ‘bang’ and won at Tamworth and hasn’t looked back since.”
Two runs back Tom’s Knight ran seventh in the Tuncurry Cup but was trapped wide before his apprentice rider took off a long way from home.
“He came back and said, ‘sorry Mr Woodward, it wasn’t a flash ride’ and I just said to him don’t worry, these things happen.”
Next start Tom’s Knight shot along the fence at Armidale and looked home until grabbed in the shadows of the post by Kacper Boy: “A friend of mine owns the horse that beat us, so I’m OK with that!” Woodward laughed.
“My bloke has now qualified for the Port Cup after winning that race so he’s going to have no weight on his back.
“To be honest if he just runs a place, I’ll be happy as there’s going to be a lot of good horses running in the race, but he’s got to be a hope. I know this fella will give his all and I’ll be proud of him.
“I don’t do much with him at home, I usually trot him around the small Walcha track and he’ll do a few hundred metres of cantering then trot another lap.
“He loves it and is a happy horse. I can tell he’s feeling good!”
Woodward said he’s enjoying having his stables at Walcha: “There are some really good people up here and we love it.
“We did it tough with the drought for a few seasons, but we’ve had a really good rain season so we’re happy up here.”
Woodward said Jeff Penza is keen to retain the ride on Tom’s Knight in the Port Macquarie Cup.
Upcoming NSW country TAB race meetings
Tuesday: Goulburn, Orange
Friday: Port Macquarie
Saturday: Port Macquarie, Albury