By Rod Fuller
The combination of Kris Lees and Andrew Gibbons head the jockey and trainer premierships for the Mid-North Coast Racing Association as the final meeting for the current season is conducted by Port Macquarie Race Club on Monday.
It has been a massive year for Lees, with over 150 wins and stake earnings of more than $7 million, placing him second in the overall trainers' premiership behind the Chris Waller juggernaut.
Neil Godbolt heads the local trainers with 23 wins followed by Ross Stitt on 13 and Paul Perry on 12. Strong performances have also been achieved by John Sprague, Terry Evans, Colt Prosser and Wayne Wilkes.
The battle for the jockeys' title has been taken out by Andrew Gibbons, who has unassailable lead of 31 wins over Peter Graham 29, Ben Looker 25 and evergreen, Robert Thompson with 22.
Local rider, Ben Looker’s performance for the season is full of merit with 90 wins placing him third behind Greg Ryan and Rachael Murray in the country jockeys' premiership.
It certainly has been an outstanding riding season by Chloe Baker, who will take out the association’s apprentice title from Jackson Murphy and Mikayla Weir. Baker is riding on the crest of a wave with victory at Taree last week before a double at Wellington two days later.
Jackson Murphy sits second on the NSW Country Apprentice Premiership behind Jean Van Overmire and has also had a stellar year.
The highlight of the program is the Benchmark 65 Handicap over 1206 metres and the clash of Duck in Dubai, Drummed Out and I’m Danny. Prominent Wyong trainer, Allan Denham, heads up the highway from Wyong with Duck In Dubai and it is significant that champion jockey, Robert Thompson, has been engaged for the ride.
The Dubai’s Choice gelding handled the extremely heavy conditions for victory at Kempsey two starts ago, but is far better suited on the good conditions anticipated at Port Macquarie on Monday. Duck In Dubai has tasted success on top of the ground in two from three appearances and was responsible for a narrow, but decisive victory at Muswellbrook in early February.
The John Sprague-trained, Drummed Out landed some good wagers when scoring at the track recently and the Ken Tynan trained veteran, I’m Danny could be a horse to include for multiple players.
The Class 2 over 1106 metres promotes the clash between father and daughter as Trevor Hardy and daughter, Joanne do battle for a slice of the $20,000 prize money. The Written Tycoon trained gelding, Eddy Would Go, landed the prize during the Grafton carnival for Trevor and does look the testing material following a last start 4th behind Flinders Beach.
Written Song, trained by Joanne, was beaten 5 lengths in the race won by Eddy Would Go at Grafton, but is unbeaten at the Port circuit after a solid win just over two weeks ago.
The Shane Everson-trained gelding, Light Motion, ran a couple of excellent races at Grafton and despite the weight impost, should provide the testing material in the Benchmark 55 over 1506.
The 3YO Maiden Handicap over 1006 provides an interesting sidelight with the Kris Lees colt, Raiden, resuming from a spell with placings at two trials in preparation for the outing. The Foxwedge youngster is a dual acceptor, having also paid up for the Maiden Plate over 1206 and the final decision could have a material effect on the two races.
Horses to watch in the opening race are the former Victorian, Mr De Niro, the first starters Fashion Ticket, Cunningar Lass and the last start trial winner, Northern Knight. The John Sprague-trained mare, Unique Miss, was responsible for a solid 2nd behind Typhoon Bonny on an unsuitable track and looks hard to beat in the third race on the card.
The meeting acknowledges the support of long-term sponsors, Schweppes, Prime 7, Carlton Draught, McGuigan BMW, Arrowfield, John Oxley Motors Debortoli Wines.
SELECTIONS Race 1: 1.Raiden, 6.Cunningar Lass, 8.Nick and Run, 3.Mr Di Niro Race 2: 1.Central Witness, 2.Irish Duke, 7. Miss Hootabell Race 3: 9.Unique Miss, 6 Latitude, 3 Raiden, 4 Silent Jack Race 4: 3.Duck in Dubai, 5.Drummed Out, 6.I’m Danny Race 5: 1.Laurentian, 5.Va Va Voom, 7.Ready Zaim Fire Race 6: 8.Eddy Would Go, 7.Written Song, 3.Demoralising Race 7: 1.Light Motion, 2.Yambaah Prince, 9.Dolphin Tale