By Doug Ryan
Cheering home two locals in the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final and an action-packed six race TAB card highlight the return of Saturday racing for Manning Valley Race Club at Taree on Saturday.
Racegoers will be treated to all the atmosphere of the big raceday at Royal Randwick where Luciolla Belle, trained by Wayne Wilkes, and Texas Storm, from the Bob Milligan stable, represent not only Taree but the Mid North Coast Racing Association in the Final over 1400m.
And backing the Sydney meeting is one of the best programs of local and visiting gallopers in capacity fields on the TAB card.
Port Macquarie trainer Neil Godbolt leads the local charge with a couple of top fancies, one being three-year-old Just Sizzling in the feature Wingham Beef Exports Benchmark 58 Handicap over 1250m.
Just Sizzling returned to racing from a spell to score a win over 1000m at Taree on February 25 and then wasn’t disgraced with a second to speed machine, local mare Lobban Hood, which made it four wins at the distance at the track.
The gelding was burdened by 6kg more as Port apprentice Liam Blanch reduced Lobban Hood’s weight with a 4kg claim. The mare and Blanch then franked that good form by winning over 1106m at Grafton on Tuesday.
Godbolt thought that Just Sizzling beat a handy field on February 25 with jockey Luke Rolls, who has the mount again, riding the gelding “quiet” before having “the last crack at them.”
Running fourth on that occasion was Hawkesbury mare Enigami which subsequently won a race at home.
Godbolt said he was happy with Just Sizzling’s two runs back from a spell and said his honest galloper “is in good fettle.”
He has a two-pronged attack in the race as improving six-year-old mare Allisam showed a glimpse of form with a third to Nashian over 1206m at Port’s meeting last Saturday.
Wauchope trainer Michael O’Neill is also happy with the progress of five-year-old gelding Wolfram which was a half-length third to Scorching and promising Jumper Leads over 1208m at Port on March 22.
“He is a late maturer and is improving with every run. He got out and got rolling last start, which suited, and will be ridden by Peter Graham,” he said.
Wyong trainer Damien Lane believes his six-year-old gelding Scatter Blast, resuming from a spell after winning at Taree on Melbourne Cup day, “will be very competitive".
“He is very honest and races best on the fresh side,” he said.
Taree trainer Ross Stitt, although believing it is a “hot field”, thinks his six-year-old mare I’ll Take Money will do just that on a track she specialises on with two wins and five placings from 14 starts.
“She had no luck last start (7th at Grafton) when she drew out and was trapped wide.”
Godbolt’s other top hope is seven-year-old gelding Dixie Lad, to be ridden by Jeff Kehoe, in the Hillard And Berry Solicitors Benchmark 55 Handicap over 1400m.
The galloper showed a return to form with a half-length second to Cessnock gelding Ghetto Boy over 1300m at this track on March 15.
Three of its eight wins have been at this track and one win and three placings have been here at the distance.
“It has been a long time between drinks and a bit of sting out of the ground will help,” Godbolt said.
Although Stitt is hoping for a good track to give his five-year-old mare Miss Zodiac a strong hope in the David Roper Memorial Benchmark 58 Handicap over 2000m.
He said the mare’s run at Coffs Harbour was out of character and she was better suited on her home track.
RACE 1. I Am Baymax 1, Miss Zodiac 2, Bromachi 3.
RACE 2: Listen Mate 1, Hashtag Viking 2, Kenninghall 3.
RACE 3: Dixie Lad 1, Salad Dodger 2, Ghetto Boy 3.
RACE 4: Just Sizzling 1, Wolfram 2, Danzibar Dancer 3.
RACE 5: Jenaya 1, Kid Mac 2, Kaera Jaani 3.
RACE 6: Ikaba 1, My Certain 2, Bill ‘N’ Ted 3.