Trainer Russell Osborne hopes a trip north for his twin daughters Olivia and Sarah will lead to his first Northern Rivers success when his mares Red Impulse and Beautiful Bee step out at Ballina on Sunday.
Osborne hopes Red Impulse can earn her way into the field for the $65,000 Ballina Cup (1590m) on January 15 by winning Sunday's Benchmark 66 Hcp over 1590m. Stablemate Beautiful Bee tackles Sunday's Benchmark 66 over 1000m.
Osborne operates the family-owned property Riverbank Farm, situated on the banks of the Broken River at Benalla, and trains his home-bred horses.
He has never travelled this far north with his horses before, but decided to send Red Impulse and Beautiful Bee to Ballina in the care of Olivia and Sarah.
"My brother lives in Ballina and he has often suggested I come up and try to win the Ballina Cup," said Osborne.
"I'm too busy here at the farm to make the trip, but Olivia and Sarah were very keen to take the mares up and also take the opportunity to catch up with their cousins at Ballina for New Year's Eve.
"They all went out to celebrate New Year's (on Thursday night) and hopefully the mares can both produce their best form up there on Sunday.
"Red Impulse is up there hopefully to tackle the Ballina Cup but would probably need to win Sunday's race to boost her rating and get into the Cup field. I train my own horses, so this trip isn't really about money, but a bit of fun, which is something that has probably gone out of racing these days."
Osborne said both mares seemed to have handled the trip north without a problem and had settled in well at Ballina trainer Bill Pholi's stable. His one concern with Red Impulse is the weather over the next few days.
The Ballina track on Friday was rated a Soft 6 but showers and possible thunderstorms are forecast for both Friday and Saturday.
Red Impulse runs second at Albury on December 12
"I couldn't be happier with how both mares handled the trip and have settled in," said Osborne. "Red Impulse on her best form should race well in her event, but a lot depends on how heavy the track may get. She gets through it okay, but I wouldn't want it too heavy."
Both mares are by Osborne's Redoute's Choice-Stella Cadente stallion Redente, one of eight budget-priced stallions he stands at Riverbank Farm. Osborne also stands two stallions related to arguably Australia's two greatest racehorses.
Sebring stallion Prince Of Caviar is a son of the unbeaten sprinting superstar Black Caviar, and Boulder City, a son of Snitzel, is a half-brother to another turf legend in Winx.
"To have two stallions related to probably Australia's two greatest racehorses is great for us and there has been a lot of interest in both stallions," he said.
Red Impulse is coming off a last-start second to Boogie Woogie in a Benchmark 66 Hcp (1600m) at Albury on December 12. Her three previous efforts were sound, including a 2.75-lengh sixth to Harlech in the $125,00 Benalla Cup (1406m) on October 23 and a 5-length sixth to Midships in the $45,000 Tatura Cup (1450m) on November 21.
Osborne has booked senior rider Georgina Cartwright for Red Impulse while 3kg-claiming apprentice Zac Lloyd partners Beautiful Bee, who will now carry 60kg after the allowance.
Beautiful Bee will also be hard to beat if she recaptures her best Victorian form. Back in September she won a F&M Benchmark 70 over 1000m at Sandown and four starts ago on October 30 finished a close second to Hint Of Mint in another F&M Benchmark 70 at Moonee Valley.
"You can totally disregard her last run when she got too far back at Moonee Valley (when last of 10 on December 18), but on her form during September and October she should be hard to beat on Sunday. And if the track did happen to be heavy, I think she'll probably handle the conditions better than Red Impulse."
One of Red Impulse's rivals who will certainly be hard to beat if the track gets into the heavy range by Sunday is the Gold Coast-trained Cosmos Seven, who is a proven mudlark with a great record at Ballina.
Trained by Paula Barron, Cosmos Seven revelled in the Heavy 8 conditions again at Lismore last start on December 22 when she led throughout in a three-horse field to beat the more fancied pair At Witz End and Antilia in the Xmas Cup (1410m).
All seven of Cosmos Seven's career wins have been on tracks rated soft (three wins) or heavy (four wins). And she has been particularly effective on wet tracks at Ballina, winning four of her five starts there when the conditions were either soft or heavy.
Cosmos Seven is another handy ride for Zac Lloyd, and the mare will carry 54kg after the apprentice's 3kg allowance.