Gold Coast-based Trevor Whittington regards himself as just a hobby trainer these days but he's been having a lot of success lately with his only two horses - both purchased for a mere $2000 each.
One of those 'bargain buys' is Gemelli ($2.70 on TAB fixed odds), a last-start impressive Murwillumbah winner who looks hard to beat again when he returns to the track for Friday's eight-race meeting.
Gemelli lines up in the Murwillumbah Truck Centre Class 3 Handicap (1100m) and Whittington is keen on his chances, provided there isn't too much rain about over the next 24 hours (Good 3). Gemelli cost only $2000 at the 2016 June Magic Millions yearling sale and has so far returned just under $40,000 from 10 starts, with two wins and a narrow defeat.
They Call Me Rose, Whittington's only other galloper in work, also cost $2000 at a Magic Millions sale and has so far won six races and just under $120,000 in prizemoney.
"I'm retired and am just a hobby trainer these days with just Gemelli and They Call Me Rose in work," said Whittington. "But they have both been racing very well - especially considering how much they cost. They Call Me Rose goes particularly well at Grafton and I've always had a bit of time for Gemelli.
"My son-in-law James Dawson is a bloodstock agent and he spotted Gemelli at the Magic Millions sale. He liked the look of him and called me. I went over and saw him and I also liked what I saw. We managed to get him for just $2000."
Gemelli, a three-year-old son of Poet's Voice out of the Danasinga mare Our Angelina, is putting together a handy record and Whittington thinks the gelding can keep on improving.
Gemelli resumed with a narrow defeat to subsequent winner Redex over 900m at the Gold Coast on September 22, then finished unplaced over 1300m at Toowoomba second-up on October 31. He bounced back in fine style back to 1100m at Murwillumbah on November 16, dominating a Class 1 field with an all-the-way 2.7 length win.
"His first-up run at the Coast behind Redex was good and that horse has won another couple of races since, then he went to Toowoomba and that track can be a bit of a trap for horses having their first start there," said Whittington.
"He over-raced at Toowoomba and went too hard up the hill there, but back at the 1100m at Murwillumbah last time he was very good and I think he should be hard to beat again there on Friday.
"My one concern is the weather forecast. They are expecting some rain and I wouldn't want the track too wet. I think Gemelli can go on with it and win in town and if he runs well again on Friday the plan is to aim him at a race at the Gold Coast's metro meeting on January 5."
Gemelli is the latest winner in a long and successful association Whittington has had with owner Warren Roper.
"Warren and I have had countless winners together over many years - too many to count," said Whittington. "Our first association was back in the mid-1990s with Seeking Justice who won the 1997 Coffs Harbour Cup."
Gemelli has drawn ideally in gate four in Friday's 11-horse field with jockey Ryan Plumb taking over from Michael Cahill, who has commitments at the Ipswich meeting. Gemelli's rivals on Friday include the Matt Dunn-trained Weston ($6), who carries the 59kg topweight, the Bill Healey-trained Tapa ($5.50), and the Stephen Lee-trained Woodditon ($8.50).
The form guide suggests former Syndey-trained galloper Weston is not a first-up performer, but he did win a recent Murwillumbah trial over 1010m in good style on November 16 and might turn that statistic around on Friday.
Consistent Ballina galloper Woodditon, on the other hand, boasts a strong first-up record and looks one of the hardest to beat. Woodition has won twice and been placed on two other occasions from his four previous first-up runs. He has not appeared since his last-start first-up win at Grafton over 1115m in a Class 2 on September 25.
Murwillumbah trainer Matt Dunn looks to have a typically strong hand at Friday's meeting with nine acceptors, including a possible four runners in the Maiden Hcp (1100m).
Dunn accepted with Cinnabarbow (Glen Colless), Tell Everybody (Clayton Gallagher), and first-starters Chazelles (Matt McGuren) and Skyquake (Chris Taylor) in the Maiden. Cinnabarbow is one of four rides at the meeting for Colless, who only resumed riding at the Gold Coast last Saturday after being on the sidelines since mid-September with a back injury.
Chazelles, a three-year-old Lonhro filly, geared up for her debut with a 1000m Doomben barrier trial win on December 4.