By Tony Megahey
Popular local trainer Michelle Fleming, with three value runners at Monday’s Tamworth Jockey Club TAB meeting, is still reflecting on a “once in a lifetime” racing experience amidst the return of Winx on a tremendous Golden Slipper day at Rosehill Gardens.
“My first ever trip to Sydney we won a Highway with The Lion at Rosehill in January and at the stables, I was lucky enough to have photo taken and a cuddle with Winx,” Michelle enthused. “Like everybody else in racing, I’m so excited to be watching her on Saturday - like in all of those wins and those amazing Cox Plates - she’s a once in a lifetime that’s for sure.”
On the home front, it could be another first for Michelle as she saddles up stablemates Ayham and St Luke in the $20,000 Mercure Tamworth Cup Sunday 29th April BM 65 (1600m).
“It’s the prelude to the Tamworth Gold Cup and since I’ve been training I haven’t ever had a runner in our big race; never had one good enough. Until now anyway.
"If they run well enough, and I’m confident they will, we’ll be going to the Cup. Both are race fit and in form and importantly they can race on pace and have drawn reasonable.
“The main factor though could be the track rating. It’s soft five at present, and we’ve had some light rain. Ayham is thriving, but his best form is on firm going.
“St Luke though has super form on soft tracks, he just loves the sting out of the ground and he’s won four at Tamworth. I’m really happy with both of them.
“But the thing is I’m up against trainers with great records over a long period like Paul Perry, Allan Denham and Brett Cavanough. They’re hard to beat anywhere they go, and regulars up here with the same intentions. But all I can say is that I’m up for the challenge with performed horses in form.”
Ayham, a six-race winner, is allocated 58kg less a 1.5 kg claim for Alena Skerritt, while St Luke, an eight-race winner, carries 57.5kg for regular rider Chris O’Brien. Ayham has the consistency of three wins and placings in his past five starts, but is yet to win at 1600m.
St Luke has won three times at a “mile”: “Yep, the form says, St Luke is certainly proven at 1600m and his Scone win was strong. Ayham is placed at 1600m on pace. It’s not a concern although St Luke is stronger at the distance but the tempo and pressure is the key to the race. But I’ve got confidence in both my jockeys to work it out.”
Michelle also has in form King Solomon engaged earlier in a JT Fossey Class I (1400m): “Not much of the little guy, but he’s a really athlete type with a nice turn of foot and he’s raced on pace for two placings since his maiden win at home. He’ll be competitive again in the right race.”
Tamworth is rated a Soft 5 with overcast conditions.