By Geoff Newling
RACE 1: Shot at the Reward ($4) hit the mark when the four-year-old gelding speared to a dominant victory in today’s $20,000 Mannion Drilling GJC Christmas Hams Saturday December 8 Maiden Plate (1000m) at Gunnedah. The Sally Torrens-trained son of Reward for Effort won by three lengths from Wayne Martyn’s Brave King ($10) with Craig Clegg’s Red Drama ($101) a half-length away third. Travis Wolfgram made the three-hour journey up from Lovedale in the Hunter Valley for just the one ride and the 23-year-old was delighted to be returning home early “one from one”. “He jumped well and got across nicely,” Wolfgram said. “I was happy to take a sit (outside Red Drama) and then Belinda’s horse kicked in the straight and I gave my bloke a squeeze.” That’s all it took as Shot at the Reward responded strongly and within had breezed past Red Drama. “I looked over my shoulder and I was three in front,” Wolfgram said. “It was a super win and great for Sally, they are going through some tough times up here in the drought.” The victory was Shot at the Reward’s first for Torrens since she bought the gelding for $6000 six months ago. Sally races him with her brother Roger and mother Anne and was full of praise for not only Wolfgram’s perfect rating but for the hard work of farrier Travis Higgins. “When this horse arrived here he had terrible feet,” she said. “Travis worked on him for the first three months so I’ve got to give him a fair bit of credit. I was really impressed with the way he hit the line today too. I was a bit worried about the hard track with his feet but I reckon today was the first time I’ve had him right. He’s been very consistent though and he is very honest. He’s a lovely horse and I think he can go on with it.” She said he’s “been up for a while and might be looking for a break”. “We’ll see how he pulls up,” she said before making any further plans with the gelding.
RACE 2: Future Road ($3.90) broke through for his Coonabarabran trainer in a race the winning jockey, Bobby El-Issa described as the roughest he’s ridden in. Wayne Martyn, who trained the runner-up in the first race, prepares Future Road and was delighted to have notched a win with the three-year-old filly he had bought privately. He also listened with interest to El-Issa’s race review. “It was the roughest race I’ve ever ridden,” El-Issa said on dismounting. “No fault of the jockeys just the way it happened.” Half the field, it seemed all wanted to be in one or two spots and it was lucky there were no mishaps just a few sad stories. We should have won by three too,” El-Issa said of Future Road, who burst down the centre of the track to grab the Tina Williams-trained Bon Luck ($12) on the line for a short head win. John Hine’s Delete ($3.60) was half a length away third. Wayne Martyn thought his filly “should have won at Coonamble” at her previous start. “She was four-wide all the way at Coonamble,” Wayne Martyn said. “A real good run. It was a good win today.” He has four horses in work and will “poke along with her now”. “Might even spell her,” he said.
RACE 3: Danspur ($13) prevailed in a blanket finish to the TAB.com.au Have A Quaddie @ Gunnedah Maiden Handicap (1400m) at Gunnedah today. The Gunnedah gelding, a four-year-old son of Casino Prince, is prepared at the track by Gavin Groth and excelled on his home track to beat Dean McHardie’s Consular ($9) by a head with Stephen Gleeson’s Time in Raasay ($11) another head third and Dwayne Schmidt’s Choconi ($4.20) a close-up fourth. Ken Dunbar rode Danspur and said the gelding “came again on the line”. “It worked out good,” Dunbar said of the race. “There was a bit of pace on up front and they might have done a bit too much up front.” He was able to sit back and let Danspur respond over the final 600m. The win was not only a relief for Groth but also a reward for a lot of effort. “That was a long time coming,” the Gunnedah trainer said. “Had him since he was a baby, broke him and educated him. I thought we would have won one by now too,” he said of a gelding who was having his 13th race start. “He’s had a few little problems as well. Had 15 months off with a back (leg) tendon. I thought he might have been a chance on his home track today too. He’s done a good job but been up for a while. I’ll give him a chance and see how he pulls up but he’ll probably go to the paddock.”
RACE 4: Congelator ($3.10 favourite) made the long trip from Oakey worthwhile when the Queensland gelding won today’s $20,000 ME Coal Transport Curlewis Cup (1600m) at Gunnedah. Trained by Paula Cartledge the four-year-old son of Dane Supreme reigned supreme, beating Mark Hatch’s Collins Street ($11) by a half-length with George Woodward’s Loud Enough ($3.30) a half-head away third. The Cup win also earned Cartledge a winter Cup Series prize after Congelator also ran a close third to Unbiased in the recent Gunnedah Cup. Cartledge has trained at a few different tracks but made the move to Oakey from the Gold Coast and has three horses in work with two yearlings to come in. “It’s a good little town,” Paula Cartledge said of Oakey. “It’s a six-hour round trip to the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast from there,” she said. “So it’s not much different to coming here. We stayed at Moree last night. It’s five hours to there and another two to here.” She said apprentice Qin Yong rode Congelator perfectly. “He did ride him well,” she said. “I didn’t give him any instructions just told him to keep him balanced. Qin worked out the rest."
RACE 5: It's Relative ($1.75 fav) has always looked like he could make a good horse and might have crossed into that theatre when he blew away his opposition in today’s $20,000 Ultra Fleet NEA Class 1 and Maiden Plate (1600m) at Gunnedah. The Stirling Osland-trained gelding, a three-year-old son of Related, cruised to a four and quarter length win from John Ramsay’s Daiquiri Lass ($6.50) with Dwayne Schmidt’s Lunar Lustre ($31) a half-length away third. Stirling Osland prepares It’s relative at his Armidale stable and describes the gelding as a lovely horse. Ben Looker, who rode him to a second career win at Riverside today, describes him as a horse who always “showed he could do it” without quite making it in what had been one win and six placings in 11 starts. “Today he did it,” he told Osland. “Good to see him cruise up to them and then blow them away,” he said. “He was never going to get beat today, couldn’t hold him slow enough. He can gallop when he wants to.” Stirling Osland has 20 horses in work and It’s Relative might be one of those he takes to Grafton for the rich Clarence River Jockey Club July Racing Carnival. The $80,000 Grafton Guineas might be a race for him. “If he pulls up well we might look at it,” Stirling Osland said of the July 11 race. “It’s not a bad option but a nine-day back-up,” he said of a gelding with a good upside.
RACE 6: Mr Bonjove ($10) hit the right note on his racing return at Gunnedah today. The Cessnock-trained gelding, a five-year-old son of Hinchinbrook, finished too powerfully for his opponents, winning the Rediguard.com.au Breeza Sprint Benchmark 65 Handicap (1000m) by a length from Bryan Dixon’s Sapience ($6.50). Graham Watts’s Tully Ho ($17) was a short half-head away third. All the accolades were with Cessnock trainer Larry Fairhall, who was able to produce Mr Bonjove fresh from a spell of 199 days to win with such authority. “He had a few issues (while out),” Larry Fairhall told Sky Thoroughbred Central’s Gary Harley. “Should have been racing six weeks ago but nicked his leg and we had to treat him. So he’s been in work for a long while.” Fairhall has also “changed his work around”. “We put weight on him and just needs to be a little bit fitter. He’s thickened up a bit and might go on this prep.” Fairhall paid $6000 for the gelding and in 31 starts he had now won more than $90,000 in prizemoney. Grant Buckley rode the gelding and said he “kept him rolling” throughout. “I was surprised how much toe he has for a big horse,” Buckley said. “He did a good job, a good training feat too.”
RACE 7: Brandon Griffiths saved Willyama ($6.50) for “one run” and reaped the dividends when the Scone filly lobbed at Gunnedah today. The three-year-old daughter of Al Maher charged through the middle of the field to snare a last gasp short half-head win in the $20,000 Oaktree Retirement Villages Wal Turner Memorial Benchmark 54 Handicap (1400m). The Mary Moses-trained filly nabbed Gavin Andrews’ Dream Habit ($14) with a last stride lunge while Karen McCarroll’s Tilly’s Waltz ($14) was a half neck away third. Brandon Griffiths was a delighted young jockey after his first ride on the filly had realised an unlucky eighth at Muswellbrook’s Skellatar Park on June 17. He said she had no luck from a bad alley at Muswellbrook “but hit the line well” there. “Today saved her for the last crack at them,” Brandon Griffiths said. “Just had the one, long run at them.” Mary Moses trains the filly and now had three wins from 11 starts with her. “She’s an honest little thing,” Mary Moses said. “We’ll look around for something now before the BOBS ends and then maybe give her a little let up.”\
RACE 8: Turcotte ($2.60 fav) could be headed for some western Cup races after leading all the way to win today’s $20,000 Earthmoving Pullaming Class 3 Handicap (1300m) at Gunnedah. The Mudgee gelding, prepared by Cameron Crockett, gave nothing else a chance as he stuck to the rail to score a length and three-quarter win over The Equinator ($8.50) with Stirling Osland’s First Family ($10) another three lengths away third. Jake Pracey-Holmes rode the son of Sebring for Crockett and was amazed at the strength and power possessed by Turcotte. He said it was a matter of “holding on”. “I didn’t need to hit him,” he told Cameron Crockett through a wide and astonished grin. Cameron Crockett said Turcotte “only knows one speed”. “He’s got untapped potential,” he said of Turcotte. “Just trying to get inside his head.” Turcotte drew perfectly in barrier one and is a horse who races best on the fence. “You can’t steer him when he’s out wide,” Crockett said. He will look around now for another race and barrier one. “We drew six at Mudgee but one here, that’s why we came here,” he said. He said races like the Narromine and Coonamble Cups, both over 1600m later in the year, might be suitable races for him.