By Geoff Newling
Quirindi Jockey Club has the chance to finally run a Les Howard Willow Tree Cup race day where the Willow Tree locals can finally attend.
In the past Willow Tree Cup days have been run mid week, advised QJC secretary manager Ted Wilkinson, so this Saturday’s Willow Tree Cup meeting is something of a first.
“It will be interesting to see how we go,” Ted Wilkinson said.
“It’s the first time we’ll be able to run the Willow Tree Cup as a TAB race on a Saturday. We’re very happy that the Willow Tree locals get their first opportunity to go. We’ve also got the same date next year as well.”
The meeting is also a first for new bookmaker, Owen Walker, who will be debuting at Quirindi after having his first day at the recent Tamworth meeting on the Saturday of the June long weekend.
A Willow Tree Cup Calcutta will also be held at the Willow Tree Inn this Friday night.
Ted Wilkinson is also delighted by the good nominations, 113 in total for the six races, which almost averaged out at 20 per race.
Feature race, the $10,000 Les Howard Willow Tree Cup, is a benchmark 50 handicap over 1600m.
Top weight is Quirindi-trained Rena’s Lad but her trainer, Geoff O’Brien, is almost certain to take the six-year-old Arena gelding west to Garah for the $8000 B&W WC&R Hunter Memorial Talmoi Cup (1400m).
“Yeah, that’s where he’s more than likely going to run,” the laconic Quirindi trainer said this week.
“He’ll cop a heap of weight here (in Willow Tree Cup). His benchmark rating is still around 53 so he’ll get a fair of pudding for this (a benchmark 50 handicap). He also gets a lot of weight at the picnics too but so do the rest of them too.”
Rena’s Lad received 62.5kg for the Willow Tree Cup on Tuesday afternoon and has the same weight in the Talmoi Cup but is five kilograms below topweight Track Flash.
He said the “idea” for Rena’s Lad, a gelding with five wins and 12 placings from 44 starts and more than $84,000 in prizemoney, had been to contest the three Cups in the Golden Triangle Picnic series at Moree, Mallawa and Garah.
Rena’s Lad was fifth to Track Flash in the Boolooroo Cup at Moree and then second to the same thoroughbred in the Mallawa Cup and that gelding, striving to become the fourth horse to have won the Golden Triangle, is the one to beat in the Talmoi Cup as well, O’Brien reckons.
“Pete’s horse has got the wood on us,” O’Brien said of Moree trainer Peter Sinclair who has already won a Golden Triangle with Tapakeg in 2014.
“He’s a pretty smart horse. Don’t know how e can beat him really. He is a class horse, a TAB horse in my opinion.”
He could easily win the $50,000 Picnic Final at Dubbo later in the year as well, O’Brien said.
So why tackle a good horse like that?
“My old bloke keeps trying,” Geoff O’Brien said of Rena’s Lad.
“Keeps lining up, keeps turning up and gives them a bit of a shock every now and then. He’s an honest old bloke and while his TAB days are dwindling he can still hold his own on his day.”