By Doug Ryan
Two handy gallopers which recently were overseas are primed to fight out the finish of the $100,000 Stacks Law Firm Taree Cup (2000m) at Manning Valley Race Club’s $345,000 Showcase TAB meeting at Taree on Sunday.
They are stallion Korcho ($2.60 favourite on TAB) from the United Kingdom, now trained at Newcastle by Kris Lees, and gelding Home Ground ($3.20), which went to Hong Kong never to race, trained by Randwick owner John Sargent.
Both five-year-olds are at the peak of their careers and are being considered for more prizemoney and extra distance races in the next couple of months.
Korcho, by Toronado, has had four starts for Australian Bloodstock since coming from overseas and has posted wins over 2000m at Rosehill on July 11 and over 2400m at the same track on July 25.
The horse was nominated for Queensland this weekend but Lees is keen to grab another Taree Cup winner, it then being exempt from ballot for the $160,000 Wyong Cup over 2100m on September 4.
Lees has been a regular provider of gallopers for Taree meetings and won the cup with Slivovitz in 2014, placing the next year, then winning the cup again with Olympic Academy in 2016. He also had a placing with Admiral Jello in 2017 and Mongolian Wolf last year.
Korcho since the two wins has been kept up to the mark with a barrier trial, running third to stablemate Mugatoo, at Gosford on August 12. Lees also hopes to win his hometown Newcastle Cup, worth $200,000 over 2300m, on September 18 and his trio of acceptances could play a part.
He has also accepted for this year’s Taree Cup with nine-year-old gelding High Opinion ($6.50) which won over 2000m and over 1800m at Randwick on May 23 and July 4 respectively before a fourth at Eagle Farm on August 1.
The racing manager for the Lees stable, Danny Greer, said of Korcho and High Opinion: ”All horses are going well. Korcho was nominated for Queensland but he isn’t going there.”
Stable jockey and NSW’s leading jockey last year, Andrew Gibbons, said Korcho “is a very nice horse."
“He has a lot of class about him and should handle any track conditions (tending towards firm with drying weather).”
In the capacity field of 16, front-running six-year-old Wyong gelding Jazzland ($11) trained by Kristen Buchanan, could provide plenty of cheek having a win two starts back and a recent sixth when racing at the Grafton Cup Carnival and this could suit Sargent’s galloper.
Sargent wanted to allay any fears about the health of Home Ground which prior to going to Hong Kong had run fifth behind Extra Brut in the Victoria Derby, beaten 3.4 lengths.
“He went to Hong Kong and never raced ... they said he was sore.” When Home Ground returned to Australia, Sargent said: ”I couldn’t find anything wrong with him.”
Three starts since have resulted in a 4th at the Kensington Track, a fifth at the same course, and a second over 1900m at Canterbury on August 5.
“Jeff Penza will ride him on Sunday. The horse is not overly happy on wet ground. It is an even line-up and it should be perfect for him,” Sargent added.
Port Macquarie trainer Marc Quinn will have the locals cheering should seven-year-old gelding Cogliere ($41) be in the picture. The horse started in the cup last year when unplaced behind Sydney’s Hogmanay and the year before behind Rosehill’s Shalmaneser.
He has always harboured a yearning to have a Taree Cup or Port Macquarie Cup winner and this year he has kept his galloper fresh tackling shorter cup races with the 2000m in view.
The $35,000 Taree Kia Manning Lightning over 1000m has attracted some very fast sprinters and the track record could be in jeopardy.
In the mix is Inverell top-weight Itz Invincible ($41), trained by Nathaniel Scott, last start winner The Drake ($5), trained at Port by Jenny Graham and resuming Gosford mare Miss Fox ($2.80 fav) which won her last three races for Adam Duggan.
The Mid North Coast’s chief stipendiary steward Jack Penfold said the track on Sunday will be in the good range after drying winds and fine weather.
RACE 1: Midland 1, Enamour 2, Andreas 3.
RACE 2: Sequana 1, Dream Song 2, It’s Me 3.
RACE 3: Royal Charge 1, Deterge 2, Pinnacle Prince 3.
RACE 4: Great Marlow 1, Furphy 2, I AM Flying 3.
RACE 5: Hermosa Reward 1, High Court 2, Senatorial 3.
RACE 6: Harbouring 1, Bugalugs 2, Salad Dodger 3.
RACE 7: Korcho 1, Home Ground 2, High Opinion 3.
RACE 8: Miss Fox 1, Syd’s Footprints 2, The Drake 3.