By Doug Ryan
Mid North Coast gallopers could provide the bulk of winners among more than 100 nominations for Manning Valley Race Club’s seven-race TAB meeting at Bushland Drive Racecourse, Taree, on Tuesday. Representation is particularly strong from Taree, Port Macquarie and Tuncurry stables as trainers gear up for the holiday season.
The Manning Valley Race Club has two more meetings and there is one each for Tuncurry and Wauchope to finish the year before the holiday action is on in ernest. The feature Benchmark 65 Handicap over 1200m is strong with gallopers nominated from Grafton, Kempsey, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, Wyong and Gosford.
Six-year-old local gelding Chalcedony, trained by Matthew Robinson, deserves top billing after two seconds at the track in five starts this campaign. The galloper’s best run was a close second to Newcastle’s Don Pellegrino in the Krambach Cup over 1614m on October 20, the winner franking the form by winning at its next start. Its last two runs for a ninth at Muswellbrook and a last, beaten 4.32 lengths, behind Hippy High Ho over 1500m at Port Macquarie were out of character.
“His last two runs at Port have been dreadful because on his work I thought he would win there last start. Since then his work has been faultless and his home track form is much better,” Robinson said. In 15 starts at the track, Chalcedony has registered three of its five wins in 15 starts and has been runner-up on four occasions.
Robinson is also looking forward to the return of six-year-old mare Mosgiel Ruby which a couple of campaigns ago won three races in four starts: “She bled the next preparation and last one she wasn’t putting in. She has had a good spell and is going really well on the track for her return.”
Promising five-year-old mare Oakfield Time, trained at Tuncurry by Terry Evans, won at Newcastle and was then a close fourth at the same track last start. Evans believes she is looking for the 1200m, although he has also nominated her for a 1000m event at Taree, but he is also looking at another race at Newcastle: “She has been settling good in her races and was caught wide when beaten by Bonita at Newcastle last start,” he said.
Grafton five-year-old gelding Doctor Zed, trained by Morgan Butler, won over 1010m at Port then over 1260m at Grafton before failing over 1255m on a heavy track at Ballina on November 13 but will have firmer ground at Taree. An interesting nomination is Port’s six-year-old gelding Forever Alone, trained by Neil Godbolt, which was sixth to Kelsha Begs over 1006m at Port on Tuesday and should be suited by the extra distance.
Others in the mix include resuming Taree six-year-old mare Hesco Gold, trained by Bob Milligan, the horse having won first up before and has three wins at the distance and in five starts at the track has had a win and four placings. Not out of the picture are Wyong’s Feature and Sleepwalker, Gosford’s Kopite and Newcastle’s Joanne’s Cruisin in what should be a terrific race.
A big watch will be on resuming three-year-old gelding Harnova from the Godbolt stable in the Class 3 Handicap over 1000m, the second feature on the seven-race card. Harnova as a youngster had three wins and was placed four times in nine starts, two of the wins being at the distance.
His main opposition is likely to be another resuming gelding Aristograts, trained at Newcastle by Ben Smith, which won a trial on the Beamont track on November 21, and four-year-old mare The Wasp, a three times winner with a third and fifth at Canterbury at its last two starts for trainer Kris Lees from Newcastle.