By Gary Harley
Brilliant speedster Puppet Master, unbeaten in three starts over the Newcastle 900m trip, takes on a crack field of short course speedsters in Saturday’s Hurricane Handicap.
It’s the second day of NJC’S Spring Racing Carnival and the ‘Hurricane’ is clearly the racing highlight of the day.
Puppet Master doesn’t always jump that well, but he musters quickly, and he has posted near-record times on this track. His recent metropolitan form is impressive with a win and two seconds from his last four starts. Puppet Master was run down on the post on the Kensington track on September 5.
Kris Lees has brought topweight, Guard of Honour back home after he was beaten a little more than a length first-up on the Sunshine Coast on August 25.
The handicapper has set him a task with an impost of 64kg and Lees has rejected the opportunity to claim, booking Aaron Bullock for the mount. Bullock has two mounts as he returns after a six-week break.
The Grafton mare Aimalac Millie is talented and comes off a smart Tamworth win. The other feature race is the 1400 metre Newcastle Nobbys, in which the local mare Darbies Blugirl deserves a change of luck. She has been runner-up in her last three starts at Newcastle (2) and Scone. She was a gallant second behind What Could Be in a Benchmark 70 here last start.
Medowie trainer Barry Lawrence has booked Jess Taylor to ride the mare, which will start from the rails barrier. Five-year-old gelding Il Bandito resumes after an eight-month spell in the 900m Class 2 Handicap and two recent trials indicate he has been set for a first-up win. The injury-plagued Il Bandito was formerly trained by Mathew Dale and he had three starts for the Canberra mentor.
He was the $2 favourite when he won a Wagga Maiden by more than seven lengths in May 2017 and he was $1.28 when a three-length winner at Goulburn 18 days later. After a seven-month break, Il Bandito was unplaced when a $1.30 chance at Canberra. The gelding is now under the care of Allan Denham and has trialled nicely twice last month.
Chris Waller's four-year-old Given Time, is set to break through for his first win in the 1400 metre Maiden Handicap. The New Zealand-bred gelding has been runner-upp in his past two starts on this track.
He was unlucky when held up in the straight and beaten only a length by Homework on August 16. Then he went down again by a length and a half to the impressive Wild Impact on September 4. Given Time drops in class on Saturday and he has drawn nicely.
Gosford trained mare Queen Ablaze, an easy first-up winner at Gosford recently, is well placed to win again in the 1200 metre Class 1 Handicap. She led all the way at Gosford and she will be on the pace again from her good barrier.