Trainer Ross Stitt is hoping it's a case of 'third time lucky' when his grand campaigner Single Spirit lines up for another crack at the $25,000 Wingham Cup (1600m) on his home track at Taree on Friday.
Single Spirit has won a host of country cup races around NSW during his career, including three Sawtell Cups (2013-14 and 2016) at Coffs Harbour, the Casino Cup (2014), Dubbo Cup (2014), Guyra Cup (2014) at Armidale, Kempsey Cup (2015) and the 2016 Wellington Cup. The son of Not A Single Doubt has won 12 races in his career for prizemoney just in excess of $304,000.
But success on his home track at Taree has been hard to come by, winning only once in nine starts there. His two previous attempts at the Wingham Cup resulted in fourth placings to Scottish Border (2014) and Kinetics (2015).
"Yes, he definitely hasn't had much luck at Taree in the past," Stitt said. "But in a few of those defeats he probably didn't have much luck in the run and also wasn't fully fit on a couple of occasions.
"But he'll go into Friday's race in perfect order after a few runs under his belt. He hasn't been beaten far in his recent runs and I've been very happy with his work since his last effort."
Single Spirit has finished unplaced in all four runs so far this preparation, but was only beaten three lengths last time out when fourth to Hirokan in the Gooree Cup (1600m) at Mudgee on May 6.
Stitt believes jockey Scott Thurlow's winning touch with Single Spirit and a perfect barrier draw (gate two) are key factors in the gelding being able to improve his Taree record on Friday.
Single Spirit has been ridden by apprentices in recent starts, but Stitt this time has booked Thurlow who has already won twice on the seven-year-old.
"Scott knows him well and actually was on him when he won his most recent race - last year's Sawtell Cup at Coffs," said Stitt.
"He's also getting down a bit in the weights in this race compared to what he's been carrying and he's drawn perfectly, which is always a big help. Hopefully, he can get the job done this time."
Single Spirit has 58kg in the 14-horse field, headed in the weights by the imported European galloper Queensberry Rules (60kg) who hasn't fired yet in two Australian starts for Cessnock trainer Jeremy Sylvester.
The field for this year's Wingham Cup, sponsored by the Wingham Services Club, also includes Who Is Game and Star Of Legs, who fought out last year's finish.
Taree trainer Michael Byers has already won the Wingham Cup on several occasions and looks to have Who Is Game on target for another strong effort, although she has to overcome the outside gate.
Dubbo gelding Our Sarastro is another who drew wide, but has been racing consistently all season. He should give another great sight over the 1600m on soft ground after his last-start second in the Parkes Cup over the same trip and in similar track conditions on May 21.
The rail for Friday's eight-race Taree meeting will be in the true position. The track is rated a soft 5.