By Doug Ryan
Port Macquarie gelding O’Driscoll ($3.60 on TAB fixed odds), aiming for three wins in a row in the $27,000 XXXX Gold Hannam Vale Cup (1600m) at Taree on Monday, has forged a special bond with Port jockey Peter Graham.
Since the five-year-old gelding spelled at Graham’s Lake Innes property and he has been the regular jockey, the two have posted three wins at their past four starts, the other start resulting in a fifth in the Kempsey Cup over 1450m.
“They are obviously getting on well together," trainer Tas Morton said. “My horse is a happy little fella ... he now likes his stables and racing.” Morton said the spell had seen a dull coat on O’Driscoll develop into a shiny one and “both are surprising me” as to their form.
O’Driscoll has been winning up to 1506m on his home track and takes on 1600m in the cup at Manning Valley Race Club’s TAB meeting but Morton is still keen on his gelding’s chances as he believes the galloper will get over more ground and be likely to tackle country cups over 2000m.
“He is bred to get more ground and I always thought he would be at his best when four or five.” The opposition on Monday is strong and one of his rivals has won cups over 1600m.
Seven-year-old Kempsey gelding Fastquest ($13), trained by Vince Jones, won the Krambach Cup here in October. The horse was just behind O’Driscoll in the Kempsey Cup, was second behind Camayoc over 2012m at Port, before being beaten about 5.5 lengths over 1850m at Newcastle just over a week ago.
At Newcastle, Fastquest was about 15 lengths back on the turn before running home well. Krambach Cup-winning jockey Grant Buckley renews his association with the gelding on Monday: “My horse seems to go well for him,” Jones said of his galloper which has notched two of his four wins at the distance.
Nine-year-old Taree gelding Scotty Be Gotti ($17), brought out of retirement at Yass, is ticking along nicely for comeback trainer David Callaughan.
“I’ve workd him on the beach and allowed him to play around in the water and he has turned his form around (a second at Newcastle on December 2),” the trainer said. “He is still sound and has been freshened up.
"He will be having his sixth start for me and he is a real gentleman around the stable." The winner of $150,000 from five wins and 17 placings in 50 starts has had five runs at the distance for three thirds.
A couple of visiting provincial gallopers are right in the mix in a most open race, the best of them could be from the giant-killing stable of Newcastle’s Kris Lees, fresh from a winning treble at Tuncurry on Monday.
He has four-year-old gelding Pickelhaube ($2.30 favourite) having its second start from a spell, its resuming run being a 3.34 length fourth over 1400m at Newcastle on December 2. Last campaign the galloper posted a second and a third over 1550m and 1900m respectively at Canterbury.
Taree trainer Michael Byers is aiming for four wins straight with his gallopers on Monday. He won with Casino Mondial at Port then notched a winning double with Port Gold and Tiger’s Image at Taree’s last meeting.
Port Gold ($4.80) is going for three wins straight in the De Bortoli Wines Benchmark 58 Handicap over 1400m and Casino Mondial ($4.40) is in the Mid Coast Automotive Class 1 Handicap over 1400m.
DOUG RYAN’S SELECTIONS
RACE 1. Mystic Hill 1, Eurogem 2, Huey 3.
RACE 2. Saganaki 1, El Casco 2, Nic and Run 3.
RACE 3. Weigela 1, Destiny’s Choice 2, Fresh Start 3.
RACE 4. Casino Mondial 1, Supreme Streak 2, Adele’s Joy 3
RACE 5. Enlightened Boy 1, Port Gold 2, Ruby Two Shoes 3.
RACE 6. O’Driscoll 1, Pickelhaube 2, Loving Home 3.
RACE 7. Stella Sea Sun 1, Haames 2, Bluemoon Dream 3.