When Cessnock trainer John Bannister shelled out a mere $900 for Miss Tickles a few years back he thought he'd be doing well to win just one race with the mare - to say Miss Tickles has turned out to be a bargain is an understatement.
She chases her seventh career win in the Benchmark 64 Handicap (2018m) at Taree on Friday and only has to finish in the placings to push her prizemoney earnings passed the $100,000 mark.
"She's been terrific to me - she's so far won just over $98,000; a fantastic return on $900! I've been able to buy a new car and a few other horses because of her," said Bannister.
A rising seven-year-old daughter of Youthful Legs, Miss Tickles was still a maiden after a handful of starts before Bannister bought her in 2015. She won her maiden at Cessnock in August 2015 but then went winless for another 15 starts before scoring again in July 2016. However, the mare has really hit her straps this season.
She has revelled on wet tracks to post four wins, including back-to-back victories at Hawkesbury in a Benchmark 60 over 2000m on June 11 (heavy 10) and at Coffs Harbour in an Open Hcp over 2015m on June 25 (heavy 9).
Miss Tickles last start finished unplaced behind First Crush in the Grafton Cup Prelude over 2215m on July 6 but Bannister said that run can be completely overlooked.
"Grafton was the first time she had stayed overnight away from home and she just didn't handle the travel away at all," said Bannister. "It was a disaster really, so it was a good run under the circumstances to finish sixth.
"She's really been going well on the wet tracks we've been having in recent months. She's feeling her joints as she's gotten older and loves the sting out the ground. If it was a heavy track at Taree on Friday I'd say she was a certainty, but we are more likely to get a soft 5 or 6 track, But that'll be fine - she'll appreciate any give in the track."
Bannister said Miss Tickles could progress towards the $80,000 Taree Cup (2000m) on August 20 after Friday's assignment. Miss Tickle's regular jockey Alison Treadwell, who has partnered the mare in four of her six wins, continues their association in Friday's race.
Wyong trainer Kristen Buchanan will decide on race morning whether Oakfield Monarch lines up against Miss Tickles in the Benchmark 64. If he starts, Oakfield Monarch looks a terrific chance judging by his two recent luckless runs.
He finished fourth behind First Crush in the Grafton Cup Prelude (2215m) on July 6 and a last-start third to Manhattan Son in a Benchmark 70 Hcp over 1800m at Hawkesbury last Sunday. Oakfield Monarch had little luck gaining a clear passage in the straight in both those races.
"This race at Taree on Friday looks a lovely race for him, but he's coming off two hard races lately. He's on a quick back-up from Sunday's race and we don't want to overtax him," said Buchanan. "I'll talk it over with Bruce (owner Bruce McKenzie) and we'll make a decision in the morning, but at this stage I'm leaning towards scratching him."
The track for Taree's eight-race meeting was rated a soft 5 on Thursday morning and the rail will be out 3m the entire circuit.