By Tony Megahey
Two jockeys with contrasting career fortunes and regional achievements provide the strongest push for punters into Sunday’s Nowra TAB meeting.
Comeback multiple country premiership winner Jeff Penza is primed for one of his most productive days since serious injury, while South African Group winner Brandon Lerena, travelling to seek better opportunities, strives to establish himself with just two winners so far for the Bjorn Baker stable.
Heavy track form is the prime requisite with Nowra at present rated a heavy nine surface in overcast weather and Penza accommodates on several rides on the seven-race programme.
Meanwhile, Lerena who rode a winner at his first ride in Australia on the Baker outsider Mystery Trick at Kembla last month, is on well fancied improvers Modernity (race 2) and Unimpeded (race 4) who have been in the placings regularly.
On Sunday, they’re very much the supporting cast for the Baker’s Group gallopers at Royal Randwick on Saturday - Samadoubt, Rodrico, then Let it Pour and Prime Candidate.
“We’re going in with an open mind because the quality of the opposition and the track means a tough day, but we’ve got Group quality, form and race fitness,” offered new Baker Racing manager Stephen McLean.
“At Nowra we’re in suitable races. Unimpeded has soft track form, gives the impression she’ll get through heavy-race fit and has held her form since she won really well at Goulburn.
“We’d have liked Modernity to have shown us a bit more, but she placed twice last prep and she’s trialled well enough coming into a country maiden.
“At this stage the going is an unknown for her. Yep, and opportunities again for Brandon, he’s ridden a couple of winners and has a strong work ethic, we’re nursing him along, his time will come soon enough at a city meeting.”
The winners have been regular enough for Penza since he resumed riding after suffering multiple leg and arm fractures in a fall at Queanbeyan in late October.
Penza’s stand-out mount is the Kerry Parker trained Porky Pies, perfectly placed in an NDIS Class One and Maiden (2200m).
Last prep, Porky Pies was a close third in a far tougher Royal Randwick BM 72 to Jolly Honour on a heavy nine.
Three runs back from a spell have resulted in successive placings again in better grade at Hawkesbury and the tough on pacer is fitter and out to his preferred distance range.
In a small field, the only danger appears to be John Sargent’s lightly raced Lady Grande. While she has a soft surface placing, she is still a maiden against a race winner.
With clearing weather predicted on the south coast for Sunday, Nowra could get a track upgrade.