By Geoff Newling
Navajo Chief has been freshened to make a dash at Tuesday’s $20,000 Clubs NSW Winter Dash (1100m) in Armidale as some of his stablemates prepare for a lash at Saturday’s home meeting in Tamworth.
Craig Martin prepares Navajo Chief for a Tamworth syndicate including Murray Keating and former trainer Steve Miller and has been good enough to win three of his 14 starts with the six-year-old gelding son of Zizou. He has also had the one run at Armidale, for a third to National Trail in an Open Handicap over 1100m back in March.
Martin freshened him then with a spell of six weeks and in two runs since he finished a good three length 6th to In Good Time in the John Clift Memorial at Tamworth on Cup day and then a three and half-length 5th to Imogen back at Tamworth on May 15.
“We were going to sell him after his last run,” Craig Martin said.
“But we’ve decided to take him to Armidale because they might find it hard to run him down.
"He got around good last time and we have a stronger rider on, Gibbo (Andrew Gibbons) tomorrow.” He said he may have two more runs and then either be sold or retired.
Navajo Chief has drawn barrier five in a nine-horse field that includes the likes of resuming Mr Pumblechook (Cody Morgan), last start Tamworth winner Iwatani, who also won at Armidale three starts back for Tamworth trainer Mark Hatch and coastal sprinters Epic Dan (Allan Kehoe) and Lady Sioux (Wayne Lawson).
While Craig Martin hopes to win the Winter Dash he also has a runner in Saturday’s $10,000 Noelene Martin Memorial Class 2 Handicap (1000m) – six-year-old gelding Cricklewood.
New to his stable the former Sydney galloper finished fifth in a 900m trial at Tamworth on May 2. “Had him for a while,” Craig Martin said. “Had a barrier trial but hurt his back, jumped out and reared back, strained some muscles in his back. This might be a bit short for him but he doesn’t have to travel. He goes all right too although it might be a little short and he looks like being the topweight.”
Cricklewood is one of 18 nominations for the Noelene Martin Memorial named in honour of Craig’s late Aunty: “Be a nice race to win,” Craig Martin added. “Haven’t won it yet but never really had the runners in it. Had the favourite the first year but he was beaten.”
Tamworth Jockey Club's GM, Kay Jeffrey, said the Noelene Martin Memorial is named in honour “of such a great worker for this club”. “A wonderful board member and one of the original people who started our ladies day meeting.”
Saturday is also, officially, Ladies Day: “Entry is free for all ladies,” Kay Jeffrey said. “Gentleman are $10 and children are free as well. Should be a great day.”
She said nominations were “very good” and numbered 112 for the six-TAB races: “It’s also a good way to kick off a big weekend,” she added.