By Doug Ryan
Taree trainer Ross Stitt has four strong each-way chances on his home track at Manning Valley Race Club’s eight-race TAB meeting at Bushland Drive Racecourse on Friday. The competitive races also herald in some top-notch gallopers from Warwick Farm, Kembla Grange and other top provincial stables.
Stitt has snapped up the services of leading apprentice jockey Cejay Graham, from Port Macquarie, who only in the last week resumed riding after suffering a bad wrist injury in a race fall at Grafton in November. She was on top of the NSW apprentices premiership table on 26 wins when the accident happened and after a second for Stitt on Desirable Miss at Grafton on Sunday the trainer exclaimed: "She has fire in her belly" to add to her winners.
One of her mounts for him is four-year-old mare Natural Image in the Newcombe Coach Lines Maiden Plate over 1007m. The mare deserves a change of luck after registering seven placings from 12 starts, one of them being a third behind handy Newcastle galloper Jack’s Bar over 1000m four starts back at this track, it being a strong fancy in another race at this meeting: “She always finds one better but she has held her condition,” Stitt said.
Graham and Stitt combine with three-year-old gelding Blinkin Artie to try and beat Jack’s Bar in the Stacks Law Firm Benchmark 56 Handicap over 1312m. Two of Blinkin Artie’s three wins from 12 starts have been at this track, one of them at the distance, but he is only a little fellow and Stitt is concerned about the gelding’s top weight.
Blinkin Artie resumed racing in a qualifier for the Country Final of The Championships at Port but a wide barrier and no luck ruined its chances: “I still think he will run a good race.”
Jack’s Bar won two races at Taree before a fourth to Eschara (three lengths) over 1000m at Newcastle on March 1 and with regular in-form jockey Aaron Bullock in the saddle, that horse will be favoured.
Given a winning chance by Stitt is promising three-year-old gelding Editors to be ridden by stable jockey Scott Thurlow in the Saturday Races on April 7 Class 2 Handicap over 1257m. Editors won at Taree and Kempsey before running a good race for fourth in a Highway race over 1400m at Randwick on January 20, beating him were the likes of Acquittal and Kopi Luwak which have excelled since.
“His next race (7th over 1500m at Port on January 26) I backed him up too quickly. I have freshened him and he has done well since,” Stitt said.
Stitt and Thurlow also combine with Leiladane, second to Hollywood Rose at this track last start. That was over 1300m and Leiladane should be stronger to run a good race in the Loveys Grocers IGA Gloucester Maiden over 1312m.
One of the better bets on the card could be Neruda for Wyong trainer Kristen Buchanan, the horse being suited by the distance of the Hyrda Hose Maiden Plate over 1614m. Hall Of Fame jockey Robert Thompson also has a couple of strong chances with Classy Anna, trained at Wyong by Allan Denham, in the Mid Coast Business Awards Class 1 Handicap over 1007m, and Ted’s Dream for Gladstone trainer Peter Ball, which is up against Leiladane.
RACE 1: Neruda 1, Tiomo 2, Lord Whiskey 3.
RACE 2: Natural Image 1, Exellas 2, Uncle Sam 3.
RACE 3: Classy Anna 1, Pierone 2, Hard Merchandise 3.
RACE 4: Demoralising 1, Stoddart 2, Stop The Fight 3.
RACE 5: Ted’s Dream 1, Leiladane 2, Haames 3.
RACE 6: Jack’s Bar 1, Hollywood Rose 2, Blinkin Artie 3.
RACE 7: Something Shocking 1, No Effort Needed 2, Lonhie Rocks 3.
RACE 8: Editors 1, Bold Dapper 2, Latitude 3.