By Ray Hickson
Trainer Todd Howlett has been eyeing next Sunday’s $100,000 Stacks Law Firm Taree Gold Cup (2000m) with Dalmatia Prince for some time and believes the horse is close to a peak performance.
The problem for Howlett is he fears the feature could turn out to be stronger than a city race if the likes of Kris Lees, Chris Waller and the Ciaron Maher/David Eustace partnership send horses north.
While that’s a potential negative for the Muswellbrook trainer as far as class goes the one positive is Dalmatia Prince would fare a lot better at the weights than he has in recent midweek benchmark races.
“I’ve always had it in the back of my mind, I think his runs have been good without winning,’’ Howlett said.
“How hard is the race going to be? I was worried that the big stables might throw some horses in and it could be harder than what he’s been in.
“I think he’s close to a peak, he’s very well in himself and is thriving on his work at home.’’
Dalmatia Prince runs fourth at Canterbury on July 24
Dalmatia Prince won two races at Canterbury around this time last year and signalled he’s close to a win with a closing fourth behind Ulusaba over 1900m at that track on July 24.
The six-year-old won at Taree early in his career and Howlett said he was pleased with the way the horse finished off his race last start to be beaten three lengths.
He’s been apprentice ridden in four of his five starts this preparation and Howlett said he’ll consider a jockey once the weights are released.
Last year’s Taree Cup was won by the Richard Freedman-trained Shalmaneser, ridden by Andrew Adkins, while Kris Lees saddled up three runners including recent Grafton winner Our Gravano who could return for a second shot.
Taree’s two day Gold Cup carnival begins on Friday with the Hopkins Livermore Cup (1400m) card.
Manning Valley Race Club executive officer Helen Sinclair hopes the increased prizemoney for the Taree Cup to $100,000 will attract strong fields, particularly to Sunday’s feature meeting.
“Together with the new initiative introduced by Racing NSW – TAB Country Magic race with prizemoney of $50k - the Cup programme will be offering $345,000 in prizemoney,’’ she said.
“On Friday the Hopkins Livermore Cup race meeting will also be part of the carnival, honouring racing stalwarts Don Hopkins and Ivan Livermore – with total prizemoney on the day $186,000.
“We are looking forward to welcoming owners, trainers and guests to our superb facility.’’
A Calcutta will take place at Taree Leagues and Sports Club on Saturday night and Fashions On The Field will be taking place on Cup Day with entertainment before and after the races.