By Geoff Newling
Belflyer was named Northern Rivers Racing Association’s Horse of the Year at Lismore today and his trainer hopes it might help the Grafton gelding win a spot in the $1.3 million The Kosciuszko at Royal Randwick next month.
John Shelton prepares Belflyer at Grafton and won six races with him last season: “Only gave him about 12 starts,” John Shelton said. “Ran a big second in the Ramornie Handicap as well.”
Ben Looker rode Belflyer in five of those six wins and was on board when he opened his campaign with a second to Landmarks in the Casino Cup: “He’s awesome to ride,” Ben Looker said.
“One of those horses who gives you 110 per-cent all the time. What you see is what you get with him.
"I can’t believe how much he’s improved since that Casino Cup.”
John Shelton said the gelding had won the Moree Cup, a community Cup at Ballina as well as the Warwick Cup and was delighted to have a huge picture framed of Belflyer as the Horse of the Year winner.
“He’s a lovely horse to do anything with,” he said. “We’re also trying to get him into the Kosciuszko too. We’re dealing at the moment.”
If he does win a slot in the Kosciuszko he will go into the race fresh from a short let up: “He races best when he’s fresh,” John Shelton said. on a day where Murwillumbah trainer Matt Dunn was named the NRRA Trainer of the Year.
Dunn also received the Gary Kliese Achievement award while 20-year-old apprentice Leah Kilner was named apprentice of the year.
Kilner, apprenticed to her father, Greg, at Grafton rode 21 winners in the NRRA and 40 all up since she started her career at Ballina nine months ago. She rode a winner at her first meeting (Ballina) and hasn’t looked back, tallying 40 so far in NSW and Queensland.
Matthew McGuren was the leading jockey with 40 wins in the NRRA. Matt Dunn finished with 40 winners for the NRRA season as well.