By Rod Fuller
Following a luckless second at Grafton last week, Lady Grande is poised to return to the winner’s circle in the Schweppes Benchmark 58 Handicap at the Port Macquarie race meeting on Easter Saturday.
The flashy chestnut covered plenty of additional territory before being nailed on the line by Bullet Shot after a comprehensive victory in class one company at the same course a fortnight prior.
Ethan Ensby is enjoying a stellar season and makes the journey from his Ballina training base with the Mastercraftsman mare who has appreciated the step up in distance in preparation for Saturday’s assignment.
With an overall record of 15 starts for two wins and nine minor placings together with an appreciation of rain-affected ground, Lady Grande is destined to provide the stiffest opposition in the event with Eerised and Glycine Max assessed as the main dangers.
Eerised has been racing consistently with recent placings at Grafton and Port under his belt while Glycine Max followed a Casino victory last month with a narrow placing behind Bullet Shot and Lady Grande last start. Keen form students have predicted that local mentor, John Sprague, should have a great day with Spirit in the Sky and Lucky for Some providing the best hopes for the stable.
Spirit in the Sky indicated a win was approaching following a narrow placing behind Lost Light at Grafton a fortnight ago with the Spirit of Boom gelding deserving success after five placings in a relatively short career.
Belinda Hodder has been engaged for the ride and is keen to capitalise on her most recent victory on Sniperess at Ballina during the week with the prominent local jockey possessing plenty of strong chances throughout the day.
Sprague’s other significant hope is Lucky for Some in the third event with the son of All American responsible for a gallant second at the track behind Meyer two starts prior.
Connections of Cotton Caper were disappointed when the previous Port meeting was cancelled due to rain and are set for an enthralling clash with Shezashootingstar in the second race while Play School is a key runner later in the day.
The Delago Deluxe mare is returning from a spell of six months with Brett Dodson sending her around in a recent Grafton barrier trial when placed behind Cristal Caz in preparation for the assignment. With previous solid performances and the trial under her belt, Play School should provide the testing material in the Carlton Draught Benchmark 58 Handicap.
A massive number of nominations has ensured capacity fields throughout the afternoon with the Benchmark 58 Handicap over 1210 metres being split to provide an eight-race program.
The unprecedented Coronavirus restrictions are continuing as the meeting is set to proceed with trainers, strappers, jockeys, officials, track staff and essential personnel the only persons admitted, which will prevent Club members, owners and members of the public from attending. No on-course wagering facilities will be available and essential personnel will be required to leave the racecourse after their horses have run.
Racing NSW and Government health officials have gone to extraordinary lengths in providing further stringent restrictions for the successful conduct of the program with the state cut into three distinct divisions and jockeys segregated to their nominated racing areas.
Full coverage and wagering facilities will be provided on the Sky Racing and Tabcorp platforms to allow off-course punters the ability to follow all the action with the meeting coinciding with day two of The Star Championships from Randwick.
Port Macquarie Race Club would like to wish everyone a peaceful and joyous Easter period and thank all racing participants and supporters for their continued understanding in this most difficult time as the club continues to conduct meetings under the guidelines and protocols defined.
A big thanks go to Prime7, Carlton, Schweppes, tab.com.au, John Oxley Motors and De Bortoli Wines for the staging of the program under these extraordinary conditions.
Race 1 – 11.38am DE BORTOLI WINES CG&E MAIDEN HCP (1110M): 1 Spirit in the Sky, 4 Gogh Fox, 9 Secret Lago
Race 2 – 12.13pm JOHN OXLEY MOTORS F&M MAIDEN HCP (1110M): 2 Cotton Caper, 1 Shezashootingstar, 6 Vinrose
Race 3 – 12.48pm TAB.COM.AU CLASS 1 & MAIDEN PLATE (1812M): 2 Lucky for Some, 4 Havana Storm, 3 Angola Miss
Race 4 – 1.25pm SCHWEPPES BENCHMARK 58 HCP (2018M): 3 Lady Grande, 6 Eerised, 7 Glycine Max
Race 5 – 2.00pm GREAT NORTHERN BENCHMARK 58 HCP (1210M): 4 Tiz Toby, 6 Dragoneight, 10 That’s Madness, 3 Twelfth Raj
Race 6 – 2.37pm CARLTON DRY BENCHMARK 58 HCP (1210M): 4 Armina, 2 Luga Lad, 8 Islamax
Race 7 – 3.22pm CARLTON DRAUGHT BENCHMARK 58 HCP (1210M): 9 Play School, 1 Metre Eater, 7 Ilia
Race 8 – 4.02pm PRIME7 LOCAL NEWS BENCHMARK 58 HCP (1010M): Sing us a Song, 4 Alshahhad, Hurricane Max