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Geoff Newling Reviews Monday's Armidale Race Meeting

Race 1: Mother's Presence is lightly-framed but stoutly fortified. The Grant Prosser-trained daughter of St Averil led and hung on for a half length win in today’s McDonalds Armidale Maiden Plate (1300m), beating the Sue Grills-trained Pasqueta with Ian Cook’s Sathern a similar margin third. A four-year-old mare Mother’s Presence is a grand daughter of a Ramornie Handicap winner, advised Grant Prosser. “She’s a grand daughter of Mother’s Gift,” Grant Prosser told Sky Thoroughbred Central’s Gary Kliese. “Not as good though.” She had finished second at Armidale two starts previous before a last start eighth at Armidale. However, Grant Prosser said to disregard that effort. “It was a bog track,” he said, she just didn’t go in it,” Prosser said.

Race 2: Another four-year-old mare, Mishani Istana, won the second race, the McDonalds Armidale Class 1 Maiden Plate (1900m). Unlike Mother’s Presence, Mishani Istana came from last to snare a length win over Cobb ‘N’ Co with How Do You Do a close up third. Jesse Graham had luck before the race, picking up a lucky late ride from fellow apprentice Chloe Baker. “She had a nice trail,” he said of the daughter of Oratorio. “Tracked up real nice and finished off good.” He said she relaxed early and surged home when he was able to find a “gap” out wide. It was her second win for Tamworth trainer Stephen Dixon. “She put the writing on the wall at Taree at her last start,” Stephen Dixon said when she was beaten by the bob of a head. “I was nearly going to put her out but her owner (Bryan Dixon) said to run her here.” He took notice of his brother and celebrated with a mare they believe they have found the secret too. “She just wants ground,” Stephen Dixon said. He will take her home to her Tamworth stable and see how she pulls up before looking for her next assignment.

Race 3: The Hunter stamped himself as a future prospect when a narrow winner in today’s $20,000 De Bortli Wines Maiden Handicap (1100m) at Armidale. The three-year-old son of Ready’s Image, a heavily backed favourite, nosed out Dean McHardie’s Grand Peril with first starter Kennie Colleen an eye-catching and close-up third. Cody Morgan prepares The Hunter at Tamworth and believes he will win more after victory on an unsuitable track. Ben Looker rode the long barrelled gelding and was more than complimentary of a run where The Hunter didn’t handle the tight circuit. “He’s a very good horse,” Ben Looker said. “After Cody tips him out you will see a nice horse when he comes back. He wasn’t comfortable on that track but they are going to have a lot of fun with him, he’s got a big future.” Cody Morgan had enough of an opinion of him he started him in the Walcha Maiden back in February. “He works with open handicap horses,” Cody Morgan told Sky Thoroughbred Central’s Gary Kliese. “It was a real good ride from Ben too. Have to buy him a drink for that.” Cluttered up throughout the race Ben Looker extracted him after turning for home to find some running room and charge to the line with Grand Peril. “He’s a lot better horse than that,” Cody Morgan said.

Race 4: Morgan’s filly My Little Diva, relegated to second on protest at her previous start at Tamworth had to settle for second today when run down by the Paul Perry-trained Portland Place. The three-year-old daughter of Choisir made light of the five and half hour drive to surge home and hand Rachael Murray her 79th winner of the season. While she lies third in the NSW Jockey’s Premiership she heads the Hunter and North West Racing Association Jockey’s Premiership. “She’s a beautiful filly, came into this race with no trials,” Rachael Murray said. She was able to dig deep.” Shannon Perry, son of Paul Perry, said Portland Place “got the job done”. “She can only improve,” he said.

Race 5: Knight Templar has been a frustrating animal for his Grafton trainer but turned that around with a dominant win at Armidale today. The Jason Reilly-trained six-year-old gelding led and beat a good field in the McDonald’s Armidale Benchmark 60 Handicap (1100m) condemning Wide Eyed to second and Drummed out to third. A four-year-old son of Lion Heart Knight Templar had been unplaced in two runs back this time in but notched a seventh career win. “He’s been so frustrating,” Jason Reilly said. “Hit and miss, good one day and bad the next.” Kirk Matheson rode Knight Templar and only resumed from an injury lay off at Warialda last Saturday where he rode a winner on a tragic day where Tamworth jockey Darren Jones died from a fall and Tamworth apprentice Melanie Bolwell is in the Gold Coast Hospital suffering bleeding on the brain. Leanne Henry was also treated at Warialda Hospital for a broken collarbone and concussion. Armidale Jockey Club recognised that tragedy by holding a minute’s silence at the meeting in honor of Darren Jones’s memory. Matheson was delighted to strike for the second time in three days today. “He can be a tough horse to ride,” he said of Knight Templar. “Just got to keep him comfortable.”

Race 6:Rachael Murray gave Peggy’s Cove something to think about early on before the Paul Perry-trained mare swept to an all the way win in today’s XXXX Gold Handicap (1400m) at Armidale. A quick hit with the whip after three or four strides ensured the daughter of Choisir had her mind on the job from the outset to give both Murray and Perry a winning double. Both lead the HNWRA Trainer and Jockey premierships. “She got there quite easy,” Murray said of a leading role after her early strike.” “She set her own tempo and was real good. She fought hard late too.” Shannon Perry thought Murray’s early lash a daring move. “Three or four strides out she put one around her backside,” he said of the HNWRA’s leading jockey. “She was game. Only had four more before she got to the red paint but the ride won it for us.”

Race 7: Murray then made it a winning treble when she led all the way to win with the Leon Davies-trained Kyrgios in the De Bortli Wines Benchmark 55 Handicap (1400m). It was Davies’s final winner as he has retired from training and handed his team over to partner Mel Dennett. She received her trainer’s licence last Friday and starts on her own next week. “Not much is changing really,” she told Gary Kliese. “Really just the name changes to me, I’ve just been handed a lovely team.” Kyrgios, she said, is an adaptable horse and hopes he can continue on up the benchmarks.

HUNTER & NORTH WEST RACING ASSOCIATION PREMIERSHIPS TRAINERS: 34 Paul Perry, 26 Greg Bennett, 21 Sue Grills, 19 Rod Northam, 17 Kris Lees, 13 Jane Clement, Paddy Cunningham, 11 Leon Davies, Mark Schmetzer, 9 Cody Morgan, 8 Bjorn Baker, Allan Denham, Stirling Osland, George Woodward, 7 Jason Deamer,Paul Grills, Paul Messara, Brett Partelle. JOCKEYS: 53 Rachael Murray, 32 Aaron Bullock, 29 Greg Ryan, 23 Ben Looker, 20.5 Darren Jones, 19 Robert Thompson, 16 Mitchell Bell, 14 Andrew Gibbons, 13 Grant Buckley, Daniel Northey, 12 Matthew McGuren.

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