By Geoff Newling
Gunnedah Jockey Club’s Christmas Hams meeting will be a bumper eight-race TAB meeting on and off the Riverside track. Saturday’s festive meeting received a huge 190-strong nomination list earlier this week and acceptances were no difference with seven of the eight races to run with three and four emergencies. The GJC could finish with as many as 109 runners on the day.
Only the feature race, the Mannion Drilling/Ultrafleet Christmas Hams Cup Benchmark 65 Handicap (1600m), will have less than a full field although it will still have 11 runners including the likes of Lonely Orphan (Lesley Jeffriess), Image Of Love (Paul Grills) and Wild Cavalier (Gayna Williams).
Off the track the GJC is preparing for a bumper day with numerous Christmas party groups booked in. Then there is a group of former classmates from Tamworth’s Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School. Gary “Frank” Humphreys, a well known Gunnedah primary school teacher, who attended Farrer and then Armidale’s University of New England, is one of the organisers of what is an unofficial “Class Of 74 Reunion”.
“We don’t really know how many will turn up,” Humphreys, who was one of the stars of the 1979 Barbato Shield (now Group 19) win with Wright College over Narwan, said. “We had the first one last year and about eight to 10 turned up. Maybe 10 or 15. Just depends. We do have a few others like Al Cameron from other years also coming. It’s just a good way to get together and a good place to have it.”
Gunnedah trainers will also be busy on Saturday with Gavin Groth (4) and Sally Torrens (7) well represented. Groth has Celona (R3), Sound Sleuth (R4), Crimson Sun (R5) and About Time (R8) running while Torrens has five of her charges hitting the track in the first four races. New Blessing (R1), Blake Street (R2), Schmizo and the The Black isle (R3) and Moss Heart (R4) go off early with Ansa (R6) and Guilty As Sin (R8) rounding off a huge day for her stable.
“It should be a great day,” Gavin Groth said. “The facilities and track look magnificent. The track will race true and even, every horse will have it’s chance.” Groth has only one problem with Celona, Sound Sleuth and Crimson Sun all drawing wide. If he wasn’t “at home” he would most likely have scratched them all.
“Celona has no early speed so will get back anyway. I would loved Sound Sleuth to draw in because she goes good just didn’t handle the tighter Quirindi track last start. The jockey said she was on one rein from the 800m home. If she’d have drawn a barrier I’d be confident of her chances. About Time also goes good first-up. we earmarked this race for him first-up when he first came back into work.”