Veteran Gold Coast trainer John Wallace only has a small team in work these days, but thinks one of them - the honest grey mare Cossie - can finally return to the winner's list and upset Matt Dunn's apparent stranglehold on Sunday's $30,000 Tweed Coast Classic Final (1200m) at Murwillumbah.
Dunn, the leading trainer based at Murwillumbah, could have up to four runners in Sunday's Benchmark 58 race - Ready To Party, Uprise, Courageous and Le Figaro. He had also accepted with Hollywood Dreaming, but she has been scratched to run in the earlier Class 2 (1200m) at Sunday's seven-race meeting.
The two heats of the inaugural Tweed Coast Classic were run at Murwillumbah on December 11 with the first six placegetters in each race advancing to the final. Dunn won both heats with Uprise and Hollywood Dreaming.
Cossie was narrowly beaten by Hollywood Dreaming with another Dunn runner Le Figaro close up in third. Cossie carried 58kg in that heat but drops to 55kg on Sunday after the booking of 3kg-claiming apprentice Melea Castle. Cossie will have a 3.5kg pull in the weights on Le Figaro on Sunday.
"The drop down to 55kg is the key with her on Sunday as she's not a very big mare," said Wallace. "Melea rides very well and with her 3kg claim I think Cossie will be very hard to beat. I thought she was home last time at Murwillumbah but the winner (Hollywood Dreaming) snuck up on her inside and just grabbed her."
Cossie has been a consistent mare but usually finds one or two a touch better on the day. She has only won four of her 36 starts, but has been placed 11 times and has still collected a healthy $147,190 in prizemoney.
Her most recent win was in June last year, but her past two efforts at Ballina on November 23, when third to Final Declaration and General Nelson, and last time out at Murwillumbah suggest another win may not be far off. And Wallace expects the Murwillumbah track, rated a soft 7 on Thursday morning, will likely be back to a good rating by Sunday.
"She'll be much better suited on a firmer track," he said. "She's as honest as they come and always tries her heart out, but her wins have been few and far between. But even so, we bred her and she has still been pretty good to us, winning prizemoney of well over $100,000."
Wallace, 74, has been training for 56 years, and has long been regarded as one of Queensland's best trainers, guiding the careers of some of that state's greatest gallopers.
Shoot Out gave Wallace his greatest moments in racing, winning the Group One double of the Randwick Guineas (1600m) and Australian Derby (2400m) in 2010.
Shoot Out later that season also won the Group Three Bletchingly Stakes (1200m) and Group Two Liston Stakes (1400m) - both at Caulfield. He woud later go on to win another three Group Ones when transferred to Chris Waller.
Some of Wallace's other class gallopers were Mother Of Pearl, winner of the 1982 Queensland Oaks (2400m), the outstanding sprinter Mitanni, winner of 17 races for Wallace, including the 2007 Group Two Sir Byrne Hart (1200m) at Eagle Farm, and, of course, the top stayer Oompala.
In a stellar few months of racing in 1994, Oompala emerged from winning the modest Gatton Cup to then progress to victories in the Tatts Cup (2212m) at Eagle Farm, the Ipswich Cup (2100m), the Anniversary Cup (2400m) at the Sunshine Coast, and the Newcastle Cup (2300m). He was then narrowly beaten by Glastonbury in the Metropolitan (2600m) at Randwick and a few weeks later rattled home late for third behind Jeune and Paris Lane in the Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington.
Wallace currently has nine horses in work and has a few young horses coming through that he is keen on.
"Nine in work is enough for an old bloke like me," he said. "I've got a couple of nice unraced two-year-olds coming through, so hopefully there's another good one ahead in the future. I've been lucky enough for the majority of my long career to have always had a good one in the stable."
Sunday's Murwillumbah meeting also features the Ballina Cup Prelude (1550m), a lead-up to the $65,000 Ballina Cup (1590m) on January 15. The Stephen Lee-trained Nothingforthepress - the winner of the 2019 Ballina Cup and runner-up to Melted Moments in this year's race - and his stablemate Pleased both look hard to beat in Sunday's race.
Matt Dunn will also have two runners - Penshurst, who is resuming, and Malawi Gold who will carry only 53.5kg after apprentice Emily Atkinson's 1.5kg allowance.
Queensland rider Luke Dittman, who has an important assignment aboard leading Magic Millions prospect Shaquero for trainer Chris Waller at Eagle Farm on Saturday, also has some nice rides at Murwillumbah.
He partners the Dunn stable's Courageous (a dual acceptor) in the Class 2 Hcp (1200m), Penshurst (Ballina Cup Prelude) and Le Figaro (Tweed Coast Classic). Dittman also takes two rides for Grafton trainer John Shelton - Arlington Valley (Class 1 & Maiden Plate) and Quarter Charge (Maiden Plate).