By Gary Harley
Newcastle jockey Andrew Gibbons is enjoying his best ever start to a season and is warning punters to forget German mare Vive Marie’s first Australian run when she steps out at Newcastle on Saturday.
Vive Marie was purchased by the Hunter-based Australian Bloodstock earlier this year and she entered the Kris Lees stable. After two trials in June and July in which the mare impressed, Lees took Vive Marie to Randwick on August 4 and she went to pieces in the mounting yard and ran her race before she reached the barriers.
Gibbons rode Vive Marie in one of her trial outings and he was aboard the import in her only Australian start.
'Gibbo' has been booked to ride the mare in the 1400 metre Class 2 Handicap at Newcastle on Saturday.
Gibbons currently in fourth place in the 2018/19 NSW Jockeys Premiership with 12 winners from 14 meetings, explained the circumstances which led to Vive Marie’s poor performance at Randwick.
“The mare was highly strung when she came to the Lees stable and we eventually settled her down. In both her trials she relaxed nicely but on raceday at Randwick, Vive Marie lost the plot.
"The mare stirred up badly in the mounting yard and behind the barriers. She pulled hard for the first 700 metres and had nothing left in the straight. Vive Marie is well placed on Saturday and it may pay for punters to overlook the Randwick run.
"Kris has kept her at 1400 metres to try and get her to settle. Vive Marie is only lean and has to carry 61kg, but I don’t think that will be an issue. She has been placed in black type races overseas. I should be able to get a smother from the good barrier and she has a bit of quality about her.
"Moondancer, my other mount for Kris Lees, has a great chance. He has only had three runs for Kris and he won first-up at Newcastle. The rails barrier is a big help and he should enjoy a lovely run on the rail behind the leaders. I only have three rides and Holy Reign should run well in the last,” Gibbons said on Thursday.
Newcastle Jockey Club has had an encouraging response to its recently inaugurated Newcastle Nobbys series of races held at each Saturday meeting. On Saturday there are 17 acceptances for the $35,000 event. Local six-year-old What Could Be could return to the winners list in Saturday’s 1200 metre Newcastle Nobbys.
Trained by Alan Scorse, What Could Be has been sparingly raced in recent months, but his past two runs have been full of merit. The gelding came from near last when beaten 2½ lengths in the Muswellbrook Bengalla Cup on August 5. Two starts back What Could Be flashed home from last when beaten half a length at Newcastle. The horse will have weight relief with former Irish apprentice Robbie Dolan claiming three kilograms.
Another local trainer Ben Smith will saddle up the well-fancied Iron Duke in the 1885 metre Maiden Plate. A veteran of only three starts, the four-year-old was only half a length from the winner at Gosford last start. That run followed an eye-catching fourth at Tamworth in late July.