By Mark Brassel
Port Macquarie’s rich Country Showcase meeting this Thursday is firmly on the radar of veteran Wyong-based trainer, Bob Holloway. The 80-year-old hobby trainer has entered Oscar’s Choice in the $30,000 Hastings Handicap (1200m) and on the six-year-old’s latest effort, the horse has undeniable claims.
Having his first run for four months, Oscar’s Choice loomed up menacingly at the 300m but faded when fifth (beaten just 3.4 lengths) to Drachenfels at Royal Randwick (1200m) on Melbourne Cup day.
“Yes, we were pretty happy with his run as he hadn’t raced since July,” Holloway said. “He’s a horse that really has a go and if we had barrier trialled him or at least given one run beforehand, he probably lands right in the finish. He certainly ran a huge race for a 60-1 shot.”
When fully wound up, Oscar’s Choice is very talented as evidenced by his successive wins at Wyong and Scone last August, the former where he defeated To Excess who has a win and three seconds to his credit from his past four city starts. Both were run on heavy surfaces so the gelding has an obvious liking for the softer tracks: “For sure – he loves the wet tracks and any rain about will naturally be in his favour.
“He has the odd niggling issue with his legs but I use the water walker and it keeps the pressure off those legs. He has done very well since his first-up run and we’re pleased with his condition. In fact, he’s jumping out of his skin.
“At this stage, we’re keen on Port Macquarie but we’ve also nominated him for the Canterbury Park Friday night meeting so we’ll look through the lists before making a final decision. If he goes to Port I’d say Blake Spriggs will be riding him.”
Fellow Wyong trainer Allan Kehoe has nominated two horses for the Hastings Handicap: Epic Dan and Ice Bucket. Epic Dan is racing well, having been runner-up to Hammoon Boy in the Jungle Juice Cup at Cessnock, before a sound fifth to Il Mio Destino at Canterbury Park. Ice Bucket is resuming from a five-week break but is deadly when fresh, boasting a record of three wins and a second from just four first-up performances.
Wyong’s Allan Denham is also likely to take up a couple of runners with Backslap (Benchmark 65) and Comandatore (Class 2 Showcase). Backslap is a winner of four races from 12 starts while Commandatore powered home to win at Muswellbrook last start when specked at nice odds.
As with all Racing NSW Country Showcase programs, each of the eight races at Port Macquarie carries a minimum of $30,000 with a $40,000 Country Maiden Plate and the day offering a total of $250,000 in prizemoney.