Coffs Harbour trainer Shannon Fry believes his talented mare Sofin is primed to go one better than her luckless second in last year’s South Grafton Cup (1610m) when she returns for another crack at the $50,000 feature on Sunday.
Sofin, who carried 54kg and drew gate 13 when an unlucky second to Gold Horizon in last year’s feature, goes up 5kg this year and will carry topweight of 59kg. But she has fared better at the barrier draw this year and will jump from gate one.
Fry is delighted with the way the six-year-old came through her first-up run on a heavy 9 track when third to Explosive Scene and Our Sarastro in the Wauchope Cup (1512m) at Port Macquarie on June 18. Ridden by apprentice Cejay Graham, Sofin ran home well from 11th at the 400m to be beaten 1.5 lengths. Sofin followed a similar path last year, finishing second in the Wauchope Cup before tackling the South Grafton Cup.
“She got caught a bit deep in last year’s South Grafton Cup but I still thought she was going to win until the other one (Gold Horizon) just kicked back a bit too well,” Fry said.
“It’s always been our plan this prep to run her second-up into the South Grafton Cup and I was very happy with the way she resumed in the Wauchope Cup. I was a bit worried running her first-up over 1512m on a heavy track but she’s come through that race really well.
“Originally, we were considering the Grafton Cup for her next Thursday, but there weren’t any suitable lead-up races for her to get her ready for that race, so we settled on the South Grafton Cup as her target at the Grafton carnival.”
Sunday’s race will be the fourth time Sofin has competed during the Grafton carnival. She finished ninth in the 2014 Grafton Guineas (1600m) behind Royal Scribe and fifth to Shazza’s Bubbles in the Mother’s Gift (1400m) on Grafton Cup day in 2015 before last year’s second in the South Grafton Cup.
“Hopefully, it’s fourth time lucky for her on Sunday,” Fry said.
Fry and South West Rocks-based owner Byron Fegan have had a lot of enjoyment with Sofin, a bargain buy daughter of Casino Prince who cost a mere $6000 at the 2013 Magic Millions sale.
From her 43 starts so far, Sofin has won nine races and been placed another 11 times for prizemoney earnings of $274,830.
“It’s been nothing but positives with this mare ever since Byron bought her and the way she’s going I think there’s plenty more to come from her,” said Fry.
“All being well after Sunday she’ll target the provincial and country cups again. She could easily win another $200,000 or so before she’s finished racing and she also has plenty of value as a broodmare.”
After running in last year’s South Grafton Cup, Sofin went on to run two good races at Rosehill when fourth to Allergic in the Premier’s Cup Prelude on August 13 and then a close sixth behind subsequent Group One winner Sense Of Occasion in the Premier’s Cup on August 27. Sofin then took out the $30,000 Port Macquarie Cup Prelude on September 25 and the $103,000 Port Macquarie Cup on October 7.
Ben Looker, who partnered her in both Port Macquarie wins last year, is reunited with her at Grafton on Sunday.
Sofin was beaten last year by Gold Horizon, formerly trained by the late Bede Murray, and she faces a horse with a similar link on Sunday in the shape of Darci’s Affair. Gold Horizon was trained last year by Bede Murray’s close friend, Gold Coast trainer Harold Norman. Darci’s Affair, started off with Bede but was transferred to his son, Paul, after he passed away in March, 2016.
Paul Murray kicked off this year’s Grafton carnival by winning Thursday’s John Carlton Cup Quality (1206m) with Termele and Darci’s Affair looks a great chance to continue the trainer’s success on Sunday.
Darci’s Affair, who resumed for a good fourth to Invincible Knight over 1350m at Rosehill on June 17, certainly has the right jockey on Sunday in the shape of Robert Thompson.
Australia’s ‘winningest’ rider has won the South Grafton Cup on five previous occasions – Brigalow (1984), Retford (1988), Shoemaker (2002), Laogan (2008) and Myamira (2014).
Wyong galloper Mr McBat looms as another leading contender in the South Grafton Cup and can bounce back after failing to handle the heavy 9 conditions last start in the Wauchope Cup.