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Pratten Stoked To Have Spokes Back On Staying Mare (Ballina, Monday)

Trainer Julie Pratten hopes she can make amends with jockey Raymond Spokes when he reunites with her tough staying mare I'll Miss You at Ballina on Monday.

Spokes resumes riding at Ballina on Monday after being sidelined since mid-September with a toe injury caused by another of Pratten's gallopers. The jockey has four rides at the meeting, including I'll Miss You in the Benchmark 66 Hcp (2650m).

"Raymond has been out injured for a few weeks after my other horse (Mary's Girl) stepped on his toe," said the Ballina-based Pratten.

"He rides I'll Miss You very well and now that he's back from that injury hopefully they can combine again for another win on Monday."

The jockey has a good record on I'll Miss You, winning the marathon 3120m race run in July at Grafton in the past two years.

I'll Miss You carries 60.5kg topweight on Monday but Pratten is happy to stick with the senior jockey instead of booking a claiming apprentice.

"Raymond knows her very well and she won't carry any dead weight with him," said Pratten.

"He has a riding style that keeps the weight off her, gets her to relax so that she can finish the race off."

I'll Miss You is no stranger to carrying weight and has been her usual consistent self in recent months. After winning over 3120m with 59kg at Grafton five runs back in July she has run fourth in the Ken Howard Cup at Coffs Harbour on August 2 (a race she won last year), finished fourth over 1900m at Kilcoy (with 61.5kg) on September 6, third in the Lismore Cup (2000m) on September 20 and finished a last-start fifth under 61kg over 2375m at Grafton on October 12.

I'll Miss You wins at Grafton during the July carnival

She finished behind Tough One, Blazing Cheers and His Kyllachy on a soft 7 last time out at Grafton and meets those horses again on Monday, but Pratten believes a return to a good track and the step up to 2650m can turn the tables in I'll Miss You's favour.

"The soft 7 wasn't ideal for her at Grafton last time and she'll be much better off on a firmer track," said the trainer.

"And the step up to the 2650m is really the key to her - she's a real stayer and will be very strong at the finish.

"It's hard to find the right races for her at this stage of her career. She has to carry the big weights in these type of races and unfortunately she's a few lengths short of city class.

"There's been some interest in buying her for a future jumping career in Victoria, but I couldn't part with her."

I'll Miss You goes into Monday's race with the first real chance she's had to post a win on her home track. She is yet to run a place in six previous Ballina starts, but those races were over unsuitable distances ranging from 1255m to 1600m.

"She hasn't run badly at Ballina before, but this is the first time she's been in a race here over a suitable staying test," said Pratten.

Spokes' three other rides at Monday's seven-race meeting are the Brett Bellamy-trained first-starter Zip Zap Cop That (race one), Vintage Luxe (race four) for Warren Gavenlock, Inwithachance (race six) for Coffs Harbour trainer Peter Evans.

One of Inwithachance's major rivals in The Mission@Aquis Farm Class 1 Handicap (1000m) is the Gold Coast three-year-old Champagne Garden who faces one of the biggest class drops imaginable when he resumes in the race.

Champagne Garden raced consistently last preparation, winning a Gold Coast Maiden (1400m) at his fourth race start on May 19 before trainer John Zielke threw him in the deep end in the Group One J J Aitkins (1600m) at Doomben on June 9.

Champagne Garden struggled in the J J Aitkins which has turned out to be an exceptional form race this spring with likes of The Autumn Sun (1st) , Zousain (2nd) , Fundamentalist (3rd), Sesar (4th), Home Ground (5th) and Lean Mean Machine (11th) all coming out of that Brisbane winter feature.

All the fields, form and replays for Monday's meeting at Ballina

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