Canberra trainer Darryl Rolfe can’t exactly remember the last time he raced a horse at Hawkesbury. But he’s back there on Thursday for Hawkesbury Race Club’s season opener with a much-travelled horse he describes as “a 1000m specialist”.
Rolfe will saddle eight-year-old Lucky Symbol in the Hawkesbury Gazette & Courier Conditional Benchmark 72 Handicap (1000m), seeking his fifth win at the distance. Wagga-based Bryan Murphy, who has never ridden at Hawkesbury, has the mount.
“It must have been 15 to 20 years ago that I last raced a horse at Hawkesbury,” Rolfe said this morning. “I’m looking forward to going back tomorrow because this is the only suitable 1000m race I could find for Lucky Symbol.
Fortunately, his provincial rating is 70 so he doesn’t have to carry more than 60kg: “He’s a real 1000m horse, having won four times at that distance and twice at 1050m.”
Rolfe has done a superb job to get Lucky Symbol back to the track and racing in good form; he has been placed at his last three starts at Wagga (with Murphy aboard each time).
Lucky Symbol initially raced in South Australia – where as a three-year-old he won his first three starts at Morphettville for leading trainer Phillip Stokes – and later Victoria under another trainer before joining Rolfe’s Canberra team last year.
“South Coast owner Lucy Thompson bought him online through Bloodstock Auction and I gave him one start in the Cup Day Sprint at Orange in April last year when he ran ninth to Lake Lugarno,” Rolfe explained.
“His feet were ordinary and he was sour. He just didn’t want to be a racehorse, but obviously had ability.
“He was beaten only five lengths by one of the best sprinters in the bush, and I told Lucy to take him back to the South Coast and put him in a good paddock for six or seven months and look after him. Lucky Symbol was a different horse when he came back.”
Rolfe won the Whirlwind Showcase (1000m) at Wagga in March with the son of former top sprinter Magnus, and the gelding has since been placed at all three starts there. He ran thirds at Wagga on April 2 and 24 and had a let-up before resuming and finished second to Wanna Get A What there on June 24.
“I’m happy for Bryan (Murphy) to stay on Lucky Symbol at Hawkesbury,” Rolfe said. “He knows the horse well.”
As well as Rolfe, trainers are coming from far and wide in Lucky Symbol’s race. They include Exeter’s Sarah Murray-Leslie (Stone Cold), Forbes’ Dennis Bush (Molasses), Bathurst’s Dean Mirfin (Keymaster), Kembla Grange’s Gwenda Markwell (Black Chilli) and Wyong’s Kristen Buchanan (Invincible Gangsta).
Kris Lees, coming off the back of easily his most successful season in terms of winners (191.5), takes an interesting newcomer, New Zealander Grand Soleil (Christian Reith), to Hawkesbury to contest the International Animal Health Products Class 2 Handicap (1400m). The Savabeel mare made her Australian debut when third to Lady I Am in a Class 2 Handicap (1200m) at Wyong on July 14.
There is a connection between Grand Soleil and Lees’s now retired former star mare Lucia Valentina. Both are by Cox Plate winner Savabeel, and came from Blandford Lodge, just outside Matamata in New Zealand. Not that Lees is making any comparison whatsoever, as Grand Soleil to date has won only one race – a 1600m Maiden at Ellerslie on Melbourne Cup day (November 7) last year.
“Blandford Lodge’s Graham Bax heads a syndicate which races Grand Soleil and sent her to me hoping we can win some races with her,” Lees said. “She is probably looking for further than tomorrow’s 1400m, but it looks a soft little race (only five acceptors) and she should run well.”
The rail is in the TRUE position for tomorrow’s meeting, and the track this morning was rated a Good 4 with a penetrometer reading of 4.82. A total of 12mm of irrigation (nil in the last 24 hours) has been put on the track in the past week, and 3mm of rainfall has been recorded in the same period (again nil in the last 24 hours).
Final premiership standings for Hawkesbury for the 2017-18 season just completed were:-
22 - Brenton Avdulla
21 - Tye Angland
14 - Blake Shinn, Josh Parr
13 - Corey Brown
21 - James Cummings
13 - Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott
11 - Garry White, Team Hawkes
10 - Chris Waller
5 - Jean Van Overmeire
3 - Andrew Adkins
2 - Rachel Hunt, Brock Ryan, Blaike McDougall