By Gary Harley
Classy Hawkesbury four-year-old Playard, potentially the best horse racing at Newcastle on Saturday, resumes in the 1200m Newcastle Nobbys Benchmark 70 on the back of an easy trial win.
Trainer Garry Frazer is praying for a dry track for Playard which in the trainer’s words ‘should’ve won four races not two’, referring to the gelding’s barrier manners. Playard has had nine starts for two wins and four placings.
On Anzac Day he walked out of the barrier two or three lengths behind the field at Gosford and he made up an enormous amount of ground to finish third, a long head from the winner.
On Scone Cup day, he drew barrier 15 and, after a slow start, Playard was never on the track yet raced past subsequent Group 2 runner up Savatiano in the straight. Savantiano fought back and beat him by a head.
Two starts back on May 26 at Rosehill, Playard got his head caught in the barrier and he was ten lengths behind the field. He was beaten 5.8 lengths.
Frazer, who also trains crack mare Spright, a recent Group 1 placegetter, is confident if the track is dry.
“The drier the better. Playard races best when the track is a good 4 or better,'' he said.
"He has been a very unlucky horse, particularly at the start of his races. This horse has so much potential but needs to jump better.
"I have him ready to win first up and we have come up with a good barrier. In the recent trial, Playard won easily, they walked and he outsprinted them.
"Both his trials have been impressive. I bought Playard at the Magic Millions Sale. My wife Julie is a part owner.''
Warwick Farm trainer Gary Portelli has an impressive strike rate when he travels horses to Newcastle and his three-year-old Picaro is the one to beat in the 1200m 3YO Maiden Handicap.
Picaro hasn’t raced since he was a close fourth in a Canterbury 2YO Maiden on June 27. The gelding finished fourth to Dealmaker at Randwick on June 11.
Ben Melham rode Picaro in a recent Warwick Farm trial and he let him drift back to last and the horse was held all the way.
Local trainer David Atkins will be hoping his five-year-old Kulnura brings his sound country form to Newcastle when he steps out in the 1400m Benchmark 64 Handicap.
Kulnura has won three from eight with two placings, and two starts back he raced away with a Class 3 Handicap on a soft track.
He was beaten five lengths at Rosehill last start after over racing in the middle stages. The gelding will appreciate a sharp drop in class and regular rider Darryl McLellan has the mount.
Wyong trainer Brett Partelle has prospects of landing a winning double at Newcastle on Saturday.
Destiny’s Choice runs in the 900m Maiden Plate and stablemate Venture Capital contests the 900m Class 2 Handicap.
Chad Lever rides the stablemates.
Destiny’s Choice is knocking on the door after two solid country efforts recently and Venture Capital has been narrowly beaten in her past two starts at Newcastle and Wyong.