By Rod Fuller
A decisive victory to Hank Scorpio and multiple wins for the Tom Higgins and Robert Agnew combination together with a riding double to Kirk Matheson, highlighted a highly successful New Year’s Day of racing at Port Macquarie.
Matheson was able to cling to victory in the New Year’s Cup feature aboard Hank Scorpio by a half neck in a finish that had the large holiday crowd on their feet. All-conquering trainer Benjamin Smith puts the polish on the gelding and the win continues the great run of success the stable is enjoying, particularly at the Port circuit.
Despite challenges from Shrapelli, Stoddart and Gold Dancer, the gelding has now been propelled from maiden success at Newcastle to Class 3 company within one month. Kirk Matheson made it a double with the decisive win of Smithtown for prominent Gladstone trainer Peter Ball in the final event.
Earlier in the day, the combination of trainer Tom Higgins and rider Robert Agnew was seen to advantage with the posting of wins by Budawang in the second race and Speed with Ease in the third. It was a wonderful commencement of the year for highly accomplished rider, Robert Agnew, who continues the family’s great thoroughbred racing tradition.
The action was conducted under overcast skies on a soft surface which looked an absolute picture despite the December rain, and a strong holiday attendance enjoyed exciting racing action.
The January carnival continues for the club with a twilight meeting sponsored by Port Macquarie Panthers on Friday 12th with all Panthers members admitted free of charge. This meeting has full TAB and Sky coverage and an additional race has been programmed to take overall stakes for the day to $160,000.
The Maiden Plate (1200m) has been split by sex with a F&M Maiden Plate (1200m) and C, G&E Maiden Plate (1200m) now being run. Nominations for the meeting close at 11am on Monday, 8th January 2018.
The highlight of holiday racing action at the Port circuit is on Australia Day, January 26th, with the running of the prestigious Patriots Bloodstock Queen of the North Handicap worth $60,000 in prizemoney.
Race 1 (Midcoast Futsal Men’s Comp F&M Maiden Plate, 1110m): Jessie Prevails was sent out the firm favourite for the opening event, but was claimed right on the post by Serg Lisnyy aboard the Barry Ratcliff-trained mare, Harada Lass. Mikayla Weir had no hesitation in taking the Poet’s Choice filly Jessie Prevails to the front and dictated terms in the lead over Live in Space and Bubbly Lass. The ultimate winner, Harada Lass, was camped off the speed and Lisnyy made his move approaching the home to come down the outside and claim the prize in the last bound by a half head margin. The win was the Haradasun’s first appearance for astute Kempsey trainer, Barry Ratcliff, and continues the great run of success the stable is enjoying with former Victorian gallopers. Jenny Graham’s filly Jessie Prevails tried hard and a maiden breakthrough is a distinct probability, while One Last Try was beaten a fair way into third place.
Race 2 (Harelec Remote Area Power CG&E Maiden Plate, 1110m): Budawang started 2018 with a bang for local trainer Tom Higgins as the Ready’s Image gelding came down the crown of the track for a solid win over Pentridge and Scorching. Scorching, from the Terry Evans stable, was sent to the lead early from Pentridge and American General, with the race favourite, Wallaman, well positioned just off the pace. As the field straightened up for the run home, Robert Agnew aboard Budawang made his move and came with a powerful burst down the outside to land the prize. The run of the debutant from Benjamin Smith’s stable, Pentridge was full of merit while Scorching battled on well for a minor placing.
Race 3 (Harelec Offgrid Power Class 1 Hcp, 1512m): In an action-packed finish, Speed with Ease gave the Tom Higgins and Robert Agnew team a well-deserved race to race double over Real Son of a Gun and House of Tudor. Kirk Matheson took The Zoff to an early lead over House of Tudor with the last start Wauchope winner, Eight Field, easing out of the early speed battle. Mikayla Weir positioned the short-priced favourite, Real Son of a Gun behind the pace with the Swift Alliance gelding, Speed with Ease saved for the final run at the leaders. The race became willing in the straight with The Zoff and House of Tudor attacked for the lead by Real Son of a Gun making a move closer to the fence, Speed with Ease working home down the outside and Ramla Bay making ground in the middle. While Real Son of a Gun was saving valuable ground, Lexi McPherson riding Ramla Bay clipped the heels of House of Tudor and was dislodged. With this situation occurring, Robert Agnew came down the outside aboard Speed with Ease to claim success by a short neck over Real Son of a Gun with House of Tudor a long head back in third place. Fallen jockey Lexi McPherson escaped injury and the promising apprentice was able to walk back to the jockey’s room unassisted while the horse was collected by the clerk of the course.
Race 4 (Midcoast Futsal Juniors Comp Maiden Hcp, 1512m): The Grafton stable of Scott Henley presented Youngtown in fine style to break maiden status over the middle distance from There’s Always One and Zanzarock. Petite Cheval set the early pace from There’s Always One with Alana Skerritt positioning the ultimate winner, Youngtown, in third place. Skerritt challenged for the lead in the straight and raced the Excelebration filly clear for a comprehensive win by a length and a half while the race favourite, Tangarra Express, failing to figure in the finish.
Race 5 (Harelec Solar Power Specialists New Year’s Cup, 1210m): Despite early support for Hank Scorpio, the Margaret De Gonneville trained mare Gold Dancer was sent out favourite in the feature event on the program. Kirk Matheson was presented the riding responsibility for Hank Scorpio and had no hesitation in taking the Real Saga mare to an early lead over Stanzza and Stoddart. Upon straightening, Matheson went for home and despite being challenged all the way down the straight by Shrapelli, Stoddart and Gold Dancer was able to lift for a neck victory in a grinding finish. The Allan Kehoe-trained mare, Shrapelli, was responsible for a good second after coming from well back while Gold Dancer wasn’t far away.
Race 6 (Midcoast Futsal Social Mixed Comp Benchmark 50 Hcp, 1110m): Nora Girl wanted to race fiercely in the early part of the race and jockey, Jeff Kehoe had no alternative that to let the I Am Invincible filly stride along in the lead. This allowed Kirk Matheson to sit quietly in second position aboard the Peter Ball-trained mare, Smithtown, before arresting the lead away in the straight. With Smithtown leading in the straight it was left to the late charge of Aslan’s Mojo and The Free World to attempt to gain the ascendancy, but to no avail as Smithtown was able to cling on for a half neck victory in class record time.
Horses to Follow: Jessie Prevails, Pentridge