Former Victorian mare Solar Lady has transformed into a consistent winner since joining trainer Julie Pratten's Ballina stable a few months ago and looks hard to beat again on a rain-affected track at Friday's Murwillumbah meeting.
Solar Lady has won three of her four starts for Pratten - including two on tracks rated a Heavy 10. The mare should get similar conditions in Friday's Gary Harpal Singh's Buses Class 3 Hcp (1800m) with the Murwillumbah track on Thursday morning rated a Heavy 10.
Pratten said Solar Lady had been 'a very nervy' mare when she arrived in Ballina but had benefited from a change of environment: "She was a very nervy little horse at first," said Pratten. "But she's settled down and I just think she's improved with a new environment up here and the way she's being trained. We give her plenty of beachwork."
Solar Lady was unplaced in her first five starts in Victoria before coming to the Northern Rivers. She broke through at her first start for Pratten, winning a Grafton Maiden (1410m) on a Heavy 10 on October 17. The five-year-old Reset mare then ran third in a Class 2 at Grafton on a firm2 on October 31 before bouncing back to win again, this time on another Heavy 10 track at Ballina on November 13, winning by more than four lengths in a Class 1-Maiden over 1605m.
Any thoughts the mare was simply a mudlark were dispelled last start when she came away for a strong win in a Class 2 Hcp over 1700m on a Good 3 surface at Grafton on November 21. Raymond Spokes has ridden the mare in each of her three wins and continues the association again at Murwillumbah.
"Ray rides her very well - he's very patient with her," said Pratten. "She'll get heavy conditions again at Murwillumbah which obviously is a plus for her, but she is also having her first run at a different track and has drawn out a bit.
"But her work's been good since her last win and the step up to 1800m will only suit her. She's bred to stay and I think she'll eventually get up to 2000m and beyond."
Solar Lady drew gate nine in the 11-horse field with Like A Ruler (gate 10) already a scratching and to run instead in the Benchmark 61 Hcp over 1530m. Friday's seven-race Murwillumbah meeting also features the IGA Murwillumbah Christmas Sprint (1200m) which fell away to just six final acceptors from the original 16 nominations.
The Matt Dunn-trained Steamin', first-up and better suited over a bit more ground, is the topweight in what looks a tricky little race. Grafton sprinter Knight Templar returned to racing with a strong win over 1000m on his home track on November 21, but his overall record at 1200m is not great (two wins from 20 starts) and he is yet to win in five runs on heavy tracks but has been placed twice in those conditions.