By Rod Fuller
A riding double from Aaron Bullock highlighted racing action at Port Macquarie under fine skies and a good surface. Bullock was successful on Galaxy Jak in the opening race before Kelsha Begs fought out a narrow victory over Akamin in the fifth event. Kelsha Begs has done a great job for Cessnock trainer, Alan Smith, and has shown a distinct liking for the Port circuit with four wins from six appearances.
The Racing NSW heat of the Rising Star series for apprentice jockeys was taken out by Mikayla Weir aboard Menneke Belle while Wewonya took the Benchmark 64 event. The track presented some advantage to horses finishing fast out wide, but generally raced well with a strong covering of grass and winners coming from various parts of the circuit.
The biggest plunge of the day came in the final event when Dual Escape, who was backed from $6.00 to $3.80 favourite, flashed down the outside to claim the prize. The form out of the last event should be followed as plenty of promising last start winners resumed and ran creditable races.
The next meeting for the club is scheduled for New Year's Day with plenty of action-packed racing continuing over the holiday period. The president, Greg Delaforce and committee of Port Macquarie Race Club would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a safe, happy and successful 2018. May the festive season provide the gift of good health and happiness and thanks for the support afforded by jockeys, trainers, staff, sponsors and patrons for assisting in another extremely successful year.
Race 1 (Stowe Australia Maiden Plate, 1506m): The lightly raced Sebring gelding, Billy Can was sent out favourite in a wide betting market and settled midfield for most of the race before finishing in fifth position. After an early speed battle, Taken In raced to the front under the riding of Terry Treichel from Galaxy Jak, Cinque Stella and Amare, who was travelling wide. The John Prout-trained gelding, Galaxy Jak, was able to arrest the lead from Taken In with Spanish Step working home well and Amare boxing on. Aaron Bullock was able to race away aboard Galaxy Jak for an impressive win with Amare responsible for a strong performance after being trapped wide for the majority of the event.
Race 2 (Panthers Port Macquarie Maiden Plate, 1006m): Former Victorian gelding, Firing Line came with a well-timed run after being camped just of the pace for a solid win over Fashion Ticket and Our Trolley Dolly. Swamp Monster and Chief Moondance opened with a solid early tempo with the favourite, Our Trolley Dolly, content to settle down near the tail of the field. After fast early sectionals, the leaders were quickly claimed by Ray Spokes aboard Firing Line with Our Trolley Dolly making a fast move down the outside and Fashion Ticket working home well. The Brett Bellamy-trained, Firing Line had a length margin when the judge called a halt with Our Trolley Dolly responsible for a creditable performance after making up many lengths.
Race 3 (John Oxley Motors Maiden Hcp, 1206m): Port Macquarie’s leading jockey, Ben Looker was seen to advantage aboard Dew Drop as he obtained the run in the straight and bounded clear for a strong win. John Sprague has only been training the Victorian for a short period of time and the horse showed great acceleration to bound away from Penfold with Real Son of a Gun working home for third. The run of Penfold was full of merit after racing fiercely early and jockey, Marnie Toms had no alternative in letting the Toorak Toff gelding stride to a large early lead,
Saint Helena was the race favourite and was well positioned early by Robert Thompson before failing to fire over the concluding stages.
Race 4 (Schweppes Class 3 Hcp – Rising Star Heat, 1206m): Libertine Miss was sent out favourite for the heat of the Rising Star Series for apprentice riders, but was unable to survive the finishing burst of the Warren Gavenlock trained galloper, Menneke Belle. Rachel King rated Libertine Miss well in the lead over Stoddart and Polskie Lady with Menneke Bell giving the leaders a tidy start approaching the home bend. Mikayla Weir made her move aboard Menneke Belle and the Henny Hughes mare came from last with an outstanding run down the outside to claim the prize by a length. Secrets No More ran third and Polskie Lady wilted over the concluding stages and might be looking for a spell after strong performances this campaign.
Race 5 (Carlton Draught Benchmark 57 Hcp, 1006m): Over the years we have seen many horses dominate on certain tracks and Kelsha Begs continued her run of success at the Port Macquarie circuit with a tough victory over Akamin and Enigami. The Casino Prince mare, Kelsha Begs, now possesses a record of four wins and a placing from six appearances at the track and gave Aaron Bullock a riding double. It was a good piece of riding from Bullock, who was able to slide Kelsha Begs to the lead over Enigami down the side of the track. The Alan Smith-trained galloper was sent out favourite for the event and was able to survive the finishing run of Akamin with Enigami battling on well for third.
Race 6 (TAB.COM.AU Benchmark 55 Hcp, 2012m): The trainer and jockey combination of Robert Thompson and Les Tilley were seen to advantage when Pinot Gris was able to land the prize over Penny Fling and Whakatane. Dubai Dusk and Svavarsson dictated terms in the distance event with The Skrill camped in the middle of the pack along the rails and Pinot Gris rearward. There was a packing field approaching the bend with Whakatane taking the lead, but was no match for the finishing burst of the Starcraft gelding, Pinot Gris, who came down the apron of the track. The last start Grafton winner, Penny Fling was responsible for a sound effort for second and The Skrill failed to challenge over the concluding stages after being wide on the home bend.
Race 7 (Prime7 Local News Benchmark 64 Hcp, 1506m): The Neil Godbolt-trained gelding, Hippy High Ho, ran a valiant race in the lead, but with the pattern of racing favouring horses making ground out wide, was claimed on the line by Wewonya. Hippy High Ho was taken to the early lead by Belinda Hodder over Clunes Rocket with Bright Lights Baby tracking wide into third position. Hodder tried to lift Hippy High Ho in the straight, but was run down by Wewonya, who was running in the middle of the pack for the majority of the event. Astute Kempsey trainer, Hilary Dew has done a good job with the Minardi gelding, Wewonya while the run of Blinkin Artie was full of merit. The race favourite, Bakslap, was well positioned by Robert Thompson, but was disappointed for a run in the home straight and finished in seventh position.
Race 8 (De Bortoli Wines Class 1 Hcp, 1006m): The final event was extremely interesting on paper with last start winners, Gripped, Dual Escape, I Am Twisted, Typhoon Bonny and Arrossire engaged. Punters came out of the woodwork to back the Kristen Buchanan trained mare, Dual Escape, with the weight of support seeing the price fall from $6.00 to $3.80 favourite. Lover in Flight took the early lead over Typhoon Bonny with Patriot tracking wide and Dual Escape positioned off the pace. Patriot took the lead in the straight, but was unable to lift when claimed by I Am Twisted with the ultimate winner Dual Escape surging home late with Serg Lisnyy aboard to claim victory. Dual Escape has now won two from three lifetime appearances with the run of the Wayne Wilkes trained gelding, Gripped, full of merit after making up many lengths over the concluding parts of the race. Gripped has only had one start prior with a debut win at Tamworth in April and will derive a great deal of benefit by the outing.
Horses to Follow: Amare, Hippy High Ho, Gripped