By Tony Megahey
Long-time racing mates will travel and swap yarns from Tamworth to Warwick Farm on Saturday, and their cheer squad of owners and supporters will be at a maximum as they represent all that the booming TAB Highway series was meant to be for the country racing fraternity.
Tamworth training favourites Lesley Jeffriess and Sue Grills provide a wonderful anecdote with their outsiders Call Me Brad and Under The Thumb into strong form race - the $60,000 TAB Highway Handicap (Class 3) over 1200m at the popular track. And the accomplished racing ladies are anything but fierce rivals.
“We’ve been close friends for so many years, we meet training our horses at the Tamworth track most mornings; have a chat and we often travel together, especially the longer trips where we enjoy the company,” Lesley explained.
“We race against each other all the time up here. We know each other’s horses and local owners. And for me, Call Me Brad’s owners are mostly first timers so it’s exciting for them coming to town.
“Sue’s horse Under The Thumb will be hard to beat as he’s been placed at Randwick and Canterbury.
But mine has good speed as a 1000m winner, and with the claim we’ve got no weight.
“They’re always tough races when you come to town but they’re still class 3 country horses and he’s a nice progressive type in form.”
Lesley’s Call Me Brad has a multitude of owners as the five-year-old Snippetson gelding carries 53kg less the 3.5kg claim for Rachel Hunt.
“Our regular rider Jodi Worley couldn’t make it, so we were happy to get Rachel with the claim and she’s riding really well.”
Sue Grills, who has enjoyed recent city success with the flying Fickle Folly and Robert Thompson, has Josh Parr riding Under The Thumb at 56kg from an inside draw. And the female country trainers continue to provide compelling insights.
Orange trainer Lee Van Den Bos, with outsider Beau Hoffa, works also as a full-time nurse so there’s barely enough hours in the day for her workload.
Meanwhile, a capacity field at Warwick Farm sees prolific series winners Danny Williams, Matthew Dunn and Rod Northam with multiple acceptors. The leading stables are upping the ante leading into the upcoming Country Championships and ultimately the $500,000 Country Championships Final at Royal Randwick on 7 April.
The betting has never been wider, or a Highway more open with five last start winners and trainers with prolific success, but the clashes of stablemates are likely to be reduced by raceday. Sharing early favouritism is topweight My Tagoson, Conniving, Volpe and Makfi Lass.