By Doug Ryan
History beckons should premier provincial trainer Kris Lees’s gallopers be beaten by his former 'pupil', Port Macquarie gelding Glitra, in the $80,000 Stacks Law Firm Taree Cup Showcase at Taree-Wingham Race Club’s $305,000 TAB meeting on Sunday.
Five-year-old gelding Glitra is now in the stable of trainer John Sprague after originally having two wins for Lees and qualified for a start when recording its fourth win for the new stable in the Taree Cup Prelude.
Lees is aiming for back-to-back wins in the event with seven-year-old gelding Olympic Academy and along with five-year-old gelding Admiral Jello is striving for his third cup win in the past four years.
“It would be a fairytale come true if he wins,” Sprague said of Glitra, his new star in racing for a Laurieton woman’s family syndicate, headed by 84-year-old great grandmother Jan Tate and her dynasty. “It would be nice to pull off a big one for her and her family.”
He said Glitra “licked out the bin” after the Prelude win by three lengths over 1624m and the big query is whether the gelding can get the 2000m of the cup for its first time beyond the Prelude distance: “My horse is jumping out of his skin and was given a special gallop on the main track at Port on Wednesday,” Sprague said.
He won the cup as a jockey on Just Prince for Port trainer Glen Hodge in 1980 and dreams of winning a country cup as a trainer. But the might of Lees cannot be denied as he has planned the assault on the cup many months ago. He said that its past three city runs up to 1600m should have Olympic Academy “looking for 2000m".
“At home he is working well and I like to target these country cups because the prizemoney is good for the right horse.”
Lees won the 2014 cup with Slivovitz, the horse was third to Newcastle trainer Paul Perry’s Ghost Protocol in 2015 and Olympic Academy scored last year for a syndicate headed by 68-year-old Peter Cruickshank who emotionally declared: “This is our Melbourne Cup at Taree.”
Lees said Admiral Jello won over 2400m at Randwick in January and “should make a nice stayer ... has a lot of upside. “If he wins he will be looking at the Wyong and Newcastle Cups next.”
Warwick Farm trainer Bjorn Baker had three wins from three starters at Canterbury on Wednesday and is confident of a good showing from five-year-old gelding Gold Ambition: “He has to be ridden for cover and is a hard horse to catch; his last win was at Bathurst last prep,” he said.
Wyong trainer Damien Lane is fairly bullish about six-year-old gelding Pirate Ben which has been thereabouts in city races: “He hasn’t been beaten far and the 2000m is more to his liking,” he said.
Another Wyong trainer, Kim Waugh, had an emphatic win with five-year-old gelding King Viv over 2000m at Rosehill last Saturday and it is a big hope after having four wins from only 12 starts.
Of the mares, Coffs Harbour’s Sofin’s bad run last start on its home track should be erased as it did bolt in in the Port Macquarie Cup over 2000m last October and has a good record at this track whereas Who Is Game, trained on the track by Michael Byers is on trial at the distance.
Meanwhile, the Mid North Coast’s “Horse of the Year” for the 2015/16 season, Tuncurry’s seven-year-old gelding Arise Augustus, looms as the galloper to beat in the $35,000 Taree Kia Manning Lightning Showcase over 1000m at Taree on Sunday.
Trainer Terry Evans has big plans for the gelding after it scored in track record time over 800m at the Coffs Harbour Cup Carnival on August 3. The horse was resuming from a spell and the trainer said this week: “I thought he would win for sure; I couldn’t believe the price. He went terrific, probably the best he has been and is better served over 1000m.”
Evans is aiming Arise Augustus towards the $200,000 The Shorts over 1100m at Royal Randwick on September 16. On Sunday he has Hawkesbury’s Chelsea Ings taking the ride, the apprentice having had two mounts on the galloper for two wins.
Last year’s Lightning winner, eight-year-old gelding Plateau Gold, trained at Coffs by Jim Jarvis, was third behind Arise Augustus and has improved immensely since.
“He is older and usually takes a little longer to hit top gear. It would be nice to get back-to-back wins,” Jarvis said. Also in the mix is six-year-old gelding Ice Bucket, trained at Wyong by Allan Kehoe, which had no luck when drawn wide in the Kirby at Grafton.
SELECTIONS RACE 1: Play Now 1, Miss Victa 2, Mamzar 3. RACE 2: Azcannyaz 1, Texas Tycoon 2, Sepae 3. RACE 3: Reggenza 1, Dark Elixir 2, On My Terms 3. RACE 4: Magic Arli 1, Oakfield Costa 2, Lozza 3. RACE 5: Smokey Ora 1, Natural Predator 2, Lobban Hood 3. RACE 6: Shrapelli 1, The Iron Maiden 2, Triple Hero 3. RACE 7: Admiral Jello 1, King Viv 2, Glitra 3. RACE 8: Arise Augustus 1, Plateau Gold 2, Ice Bucket 3.