Local jockey Terry Green takes over as the new rider for St Luke at Muswellbrook on Thursday as trainer, Michelle Fleming, seeks to continue her amazing sequence of winners.
Chris O’Brien has had to forgo four rides at the meeting including the Fleming-trained St Luke in the A Corp Computers Benchmark 64 (1450m) following a trackwork fall at Gosford on Tuesday morning which left him with an injured left leg.
Initially, he told his manager Wayne Harris he thought he would be fit to ride at Muswellbrook and that was passed on to Fleming when she rang Harris for an update on Tuesday afternoon. However, by early Wednesday morning O’Brien had ruled himself unfit and Fleming was on the search for another jockey and the first person she rang was the Muswellbrook-based Green.
“There are two riders who get on really well with St Luke and know how to ride him and they are Chris and Terry,” Fleming said.
“Terry is a really good rider and I don’t understand why he doesn’t get more rides. He has won on St Luke before and I have been more than happy with every ride he has had for me.”
O’Brien was philosophical about missing the meeting: “I was really looking forward to riding Michelle’s horse, but the leg got worse overnight,” O’Brien said.
“Unfortunately, the injury, which the doctor says is a bruised heel, is to my good leg so now I am limping on both legs.” O’Brien has a permanent limp with his right leg courtesy of an old injury with has left him with only about 20% of his heel.
The small Fleming stable, based at Tamworth, has been in rare form with seven winners from its last 23 runners including a double at Tamworth last Thursday followed by the trainer’s win with The Lion, ridden by O’Brien, in the Highway Handicap at Rosehill last Saturday. That tally also includes a win with Ayham at Muswellbrook earlier in January.
St Luke started the sequence for Fleming with his win at Scone on December 15 but then let the team down with a last at Inverell and a luckless fifth at Tamworth. While the Inverell failure still has Fleming puzzled, she was more than happy with his run at Tamworth, given the circumstances. He was held up on the home turn then O’Brien had to switch around horses to get clear galloping room.
“Once he got clear he ran home really well and that was the thing that really pleased me,” Fleming said. “I still don’t know what happened at Inverell but it was a hot day, the track was leaderish, they went hard early and he was left tailed off. Perhaps he knew he couldn’t catch them and gave up but that’s only a theory.”
St Luke looks remarkably good value in $11 in Sportsbet’s early market with the Clare Cummingham trained Global Rocket the $2.40 early favourite. Rory Hutchings, who has ridden the four-year-old at his last two starts for a win at Orange and a luckless third at Canberra, has retained the ride, his only booking for the meeting.
“I didn’t realise when I booked him he didn’t have any other rides but he said he is quite happy to go up,” Cunningham said. Global Rocket holds a special place in Cunningham’s heart. He is raced by a large syndicate led by her former boss Peter Moody and Wylie Dalziel Roy Higgins Racing.
“When Peter retired and I went out on my own they sent this horse to me to help get me started,” Cunningham said. “The win at Orange and the third at Canberra really got the momentum going so they went to the Gold Coast sale and bought me two really nice yearlings from the first book. I owe them a lot so hopefully we can keep the momentum going with another win at Muswellbrook.”
O’Brien’s injury not only left Fleming searching for another rider but Steve Hodge, Peter Bloomfield and Terry Drayton with the same problem. O’Brien was to ride Ancascocha in the Silks Function Centre Maiden (1280m) for Bloomfield, one of two runners he has in the race.
Aaron Bullock takes the ride on that horse while Greg Ryan will ride Cristal Lulu, giving the trainer a good chance of landing the quinella despite both horses drawing wide. Cristal Lulu was flying home when second over 1200 metres at Gunnedah at her last start and will appreciate the slightly longer journey here while Ancascocha goes into this after a good third in a 1200 metre maiden at Tamworth.
1-1.15, BENGALLA MINING COMPANY BENCHMARK 58, 2300m: LUCKY ELIXER 1, Nightspun 2, Hand It In 3, Southern Delight 4.
2-1.50, GREAT NORTHERN SUPER CRISP LAGER MAIDEN, 1000m: FALERINA 1, Bangkok 2, Latin Belle 3, Slimline 4.
3-2.25, MUSWELLBROOKRACECLUB.COM.AU MAIDEN, 1280m: ROAD TO HEAVEN 1, Shadow Flight 2, Chekkapen 3, James Richard 4.
4-3.05, SILKS FUNCTION CENTRE MAIDEN, 1280m: CRISTAL LULU 1, Ancascocha 2, Sepoised 3, Artistic Queen 4.
5-3.40, TWO RIVERS WINES CLASS ONE, 1280m: WINNER’S LANE 1, Forsox 2, Thornbro 3, Our Chad 4.
6-4.15, BHP MT ARTHUR COAL CLASS THREE, 1000m: OUR SEBRING 1, Cockles 2, Invincible Bot 3, Sepae 4.
7-4.50, A CORP COMPUTERS BENCHMARK 64, 1450m: GLOBAL ROCKET 1, St Luke 2, It’s Relative 3, Buon Natale 4.
8-5.30, TAB.COM.AU CLASS ONE AND MAIDEN, 1750m: DIZZY SUCCESS 1, Bellabrook 2, Stately Lady 3, Soolaimon 4.
Best Bets: Falerina, Dizzy Success