Queensland trainer Diane Murphy hopes to kick-start a memorable weekend when track specialist Sunset Hills chases his fifth straight Ballina win on Friday.
Sunset Hills, successful at his past four trips down to Ballina, steps out in the Probus Club Of Ballina Waters Benchmark 67 Hcp (1010m). Twenty-four hours later, the Beaudesert-based Murphy catches a flight to Townsville to saddle up recent stable arrival in Peacock in North Queensland’s feature sprint, the $100,000 Cleveland Bay Hcp (1300m).
Sunset Hills and Peacock are both raced by Gold Coast owner Jack Pakis. Peacock, previously with Godolphin, was bought by Pakis for $80,000 at the Magic Millions National Sale in June.
“It could be a terrific couple of days. We’d be laughing if both horses could win,” said Murphy, who currently has 10 horses in work at Beaudesert.
Sunset Hills, a rising eight-year-old, has won at his past four appearances at Ballina – on July 18 last year, and this year on February 15, June 22 and July 17. Three of those wins were over 1400m with his most recent win earlier this month over 1255m. The gelding’s last win away from Ballina was at Ipswich in 2015 when he was trained on the Gold Coast by Gillian Heinrich.
The obvious concern for Murphy with Sunset Hills on Friday is that he is dropping back to 1010m.
“There were no other suitable races for him and as he goes so well at Ballina we thought we’d tackle the 1010m race,” she said. “I think he goes so well at Ballina because he likes the cushion in the track there.
“It is a bit of a task dropping back to the 1010m, but he has freshened up really well and he’s in terrific shape. Considering his great record at Ballina, I think he’ll still be competitive over the shorter trip.”
Jockey Glen Colless, who has partnered Sunset Hills in his past two Ballina wins, continues the association on Friday – his only ride on the eight-race program: “Nobody reads a race better than Glen, so the horse is in good hands again,” said Murphy.
Murphy plans to travel down to Ballina with Sunset Hills on Friday, return to her Beaudesert stable and fly out to Townsville on Saturday for Peacock’s Cleveland Bay assignment.
Peacock made his debut for Murphy in the Glasshouse Hcp (1400m) at the Sunshine Coast Sprint on June 30, finishing sixth to Jamaica Rain. At his following start he won the $100,000 Rockhampton Newmarket Hcp (1300m) on July 6.
“He’s certainly a lovely horse to have in my stable,” said Murphy. “He’s travelled up to Townsville in terrific order. They really looked after us in Rocky after his last win and if he could win the Cleveland Bay I’m sure we’ll find another nice place in Townsville on Saturday night to celebrate.”