By Doug Ryan
Taree owner Steve Fell has become a trainer again to try and win the Wingham Beef Exports Cup with gelding A Lot Like Home at Manning Valley Race Club’s TAB meeting at Taree on Monday. He bred the four-year-old from his retired stallion Home On The Grange and in his new role hopes to make it two wins on the trot this campaign in the Benchmark 65 Handicap over 1257m.
A Lot Like Home has only had seven starts for three wins and three placings and was under Wingham trainer John McLachlan when it broke its maiden in scoring over 1250m at Bushland Drive Racecourse, Taree, on April 1 last year. The horse then scored a win over 1315m at Coffs Harbour before running fifth in a Sydney Highway race over 1400m, beaten 3.5 lengths, at Randwick on April 22. The gelding came back from a spell under Fell’s training to win over 1100m at Scone on December 27.
“I bred him and decided to take out a trainer’s licence myself. I couldn’t be happier with his progress since the Scone win ... he has trained on well. He is a really nice horse, a real gentleman,” Fell said.
Danehill-bred Home On The Grange, bought for $1500, was a successful sire locally, his progeny winning among many races the Taree Cup over 2000m, before being retired from stud duties just over two years ago.
A Lot Like Home is out of Crownalot which won races at Gosford, Nowra and Townsville, also having five placings, in 29 starts. The gelding is to stick to “bush races” as long as it is possible but the Country Qualifier for The Championships at Royal Randwick in April could be a future target along with Highway races: “At the moment the distance of the cup is right up his alley.”
Visiting gallopers are again hard to beat but Taree’s six-year-old mare Hesco Gold, trained by Bob Milligan, has good form at the distance and at the track for a win and four placings in six starts. Former Sydney eight-year-old gelding Lyric, still partly owned by Warwick Farm trainer Greg Hickman, is now trained by Port Macquarie’s Jenny Graham and is well credentialed with six wins and 16 placings from 59 starts for prizemoney of $241,000, well above any of his rivals.
An interesting runner from Gosford is five-year-old gelding Duke, having its first start for Angela Davies in resuming from a spell, but it has won first-up on three occasions: “The horse has had a couple of jump outs, is well and ready to go,” she said.
Wyong trainer Les Tilley has called up his old mate jockey Robert Thompson to try and win on his two starters, seven-year-old gelding Pinot Gris in the Benchmark 60 Handicap over 2018m and second starter Grand Acheeva in the Maiden Plate over 1257m: “I have just about educated him up on how to ride,” he jokingly said of the over 4000 wins jockey.
Thompson rode Pinot Gris to win over 2012m two starts back at Port on November 28. It then was “disappointing” over 2000m at Kembla Grange when running 8th, beaten 5.2 lengths.
Pinot Gris has had eight starts at Taree for three wins and a second, one at the distance: “The horse goes good at the Taree track and has worked well since Kembla.” As for Grand Acheeva, it has gone “alright” since its first start fourth to Taree’s Editors (since won again at Kempsey on Tuesday) at this track last month.
RACE 1: Merriwa 1, Valbeata 2, Serious Star 3.
RACE 2: Pinot Gris 1, Bochy 2, Italian Son 3.
RACE 3: Grand Acheeva 1, Furore 2, Subtle Grey 3.
RACE 4: Cheers Joyce 1, Directory 2, Natural Image 3.
RACE 5: Alot Like Home 1, Hesco Gold 2, Lyric 3.
RACE 6: I Am Awesome 1, Julie Magic 2, Lonhie Rocks 3.
RACE 7: Sadhika 1, Arrossire 2, Mosgiel Lucy 3.