By Doug Ryan
Gallopers on trial for the $35,000 Showcase Wingham Cup on June 1 will be staking their reputations on the line in the feature race at Manning Valley Race Club’s TAB meeting at Bushland Drive Racecourse, Taree, on Monday.
They are using the Mid Coast Automotive Benchmark 65 Handicap over 1400m as a guide to their chances in the cup over 1600m on a eight-race Showcase card worth $255,000 prizemoney. One of those being aimed towards the cup is three-year-old local gelding Blinkin Artie, trained by Ross Stitt, who has a handy team accepted for Monday.
No doubt a win by one or more of them would provide some handy spending cash towards an overdue European holiday for Stitt and his wife, Winsome. The trainer has great belief in the ability of Blinkin Artie, the winner of four races from 15 starts, and reckons it could be a worthwhile chance in the Grafton Guineas in July. The gelding’s biggest problem is it is not so big and has trouble lumping weight.
On that score, he has called upon Sydney apprentice jockey Wendy Peel to take the mount to reduce the galloper’s weight by three kilos, she also being given the ride on a couple more of Stitt’s horses.
Stitt said he was disappointed with Blinkin Artie’s last run when fifth behind Port Macquarie gelding Dixie Lad, trained by Neil Godbolt, over 1614m here: “He didn’t fire as expected and it was probably due to there being no speed on early in the race. Three of Blinkin Artie’s wins have been at this track and in one he beat promising Jack’s Bar, trained by Newcastle’s Kris Lees, over 1312m three starts back.
Peel is also riding each-way hopes Natural Predator and Natural Image among Stitt’s other starters. As far as the feature race, Wyong trainer Damien Lane has a strong hand in seven-year-old gelding Choice Larga and six-year-old gelding Kanguru, both possibles for the Wingham Cup.
Choice Larga won over 1300m at Kembla Grange last start and is an on pace runner “in good heart". “He has been placed at 1600m and the Wingham Cup would be ideal.”
As for Kanguru, placings at Wyong and Newcastle at its last two starts should have it ready for this race and the Wingham Cup. Lane said he normally has his share of luck at Taree and thought Rastafarian in the Hydra Hose Class 3 Handicap over 1000m was an each-way chance.
Up against Rastafarian in a very even race is Taree five-year-old mare Lobban Hood, trained by Robert Barnes which has a win and two placings in similar races at its last three starts.
“I usually give her more than two days to recover between races but after her second at Taree last meeting it was the best she has ever pulled up. She surprised me as to how well she was and even though this looks a difficult field she has been very consistent,” Barnes said.
But everything in the race depends on how forward is Cordoned from the Newcastle stable of Kris Lees which is resuming after good city form.
RACE 1: Cordoned 1, Loban Hood 2, Rastafarian 3.
RACE 2: La Pont 1, Mister McIlroy 2, Salty Rain 3.
RACE 3: African Guy 1, Dancing Phryne 2, Munro 3.
RACE 4: Brooke 1, Natural Image 2, Thirty Knots 3.
RACE 5: Conquering Kate 1, Got The Tickets 2, Rock Tsar 3.
RACE 6: Zaze 1, Flying Comet 2, Immune 3.
RACE 7: Blinkin Artie 1, Choice Larga 2, Sleepwalker 3.