Retirement may be on the horizon for one of Armidale trainer Paul Grills's runners at Grafton on Sunday but he expects his two other chances to prove hard to beat.
Grills will be represented by veteran stayer Kingston Time and the in-form The Skrill in the Westlawn Insurance Brokers Benchmark 60 Hcp (2210m), and with last-start winner Aprocher in the Ford & Dougherty Property Christmas Cup Class 1 (1410m).
The nine-year-old Kingston Time has been a great peformer for the stable, but has been struggling to rediscover his best form this year, finishing either last or near the tail of the field at his past six starts. He has won 14 races and been placed 32 times in his 125-start career for a return of just under $200,000 in prizemoney.
The Skrill, one the other hand, has really come on this preparation, winning two of his past four starts, including a big win in a Benchmark 60 Hcp (2350m) at Grafton two runs back on November 21. The Skrill finished unplaced as the $4.60 favourite over 2012m in a Benchmark 55 at Port Macquarie last Tuesday, but Grills described it as 'forget run' under the circumstances.
Jockey Peter Graham found himself four and five wide before the home turn and The Skrill was under pressure in the straight, fading to finish a seven-length eighth behind Robert Thompson's mount, Pinot Gris.
"Pete admitted he had a couple of options and unfortunately took the wrong one and wound up very deep," said Grills. "Pete reckoned if he'd have followed Thompson instead of going to the outside he probably would have finished second. I think he'll be hard to beat back to 2200m at Grafton on Sunday although his winning margin (four lengths) there two runs back might be a bit deceptive as Pete caught them napping that day."
While Grills believes The Skrill has definitely improved with maturity this preparation, he feels Kingston Time's career may be nearing the end.
"He's not racing well at all. We'll see how he goes on Sunday, but retirement might not be too far way," he said. "But he's been a fabulous horse to us over the years - I wish I had a stable full of horses like him."
Grills is keen on the chances of former Victorian galloper Aprocher who surprised him a little when he won first-up for the stable in an Inverell Maiden over 1200m on November 18. Previously trained in Victoria by Tony Noonan, Aprocher had been placed in two of his eight starts before joining Grills with his best efforts over 1540m and beyond.
"He surprised me a bit when he won first-up over the 1200m and the step up to the 1400m on Sunday will obviously suit him even better," said Grills. "He's a nice horse and he's worked very well since - I think he's a horse we're going to have a lot of fun with."