By Geoff Newling
Winning Saturday’s $7000 Tabulam Cup will secure a berth in January 1’s $20,000 Bush Battlers Cup (1400m) at Inverell. Just by running at Tabulam, horses will be eligible for the novel new Bush Battlers Cup run under special conditions and in honour of the late Inverell Jockey Club president, Don Bartlett, who championed the idea of running a feature race for horses who competed at the many one-day a year meetings in the country areas.
The Hunter and North West Racing Association abounds in iconic once-a-year meetings, especially the north-western fringe where the likes of Glen Innes, Deepwater, Bingara, Warialda, Narrabri, Mungindi, Barraba and Bundarra have already run their Cup meetings for the year.
Inverell Jockey Club vice chairman, Mike Witherdin, said the “special conditioned” Don Bartlett Memorial Bush Battlers Cup would be run over 1400m on a nine-race Inverell Cup program on New Year’s Day.
“It is only open to horses that have contested races at the nearby one-day clubs race meetings,” Mike Witherdin said. “To be eligible the horse must have started at Glen Innes, Deepwater, Bingara, Warialda, Narrabri, Mungindi, Barraba or Bundarra already run in 2017.
“There is also one qualifying day available to trainers with the running of the iconic Tabulam meeting this Saturday (November 11). Tabulam was included in the qualifying clubs as it is the only one day club on the Northern Rivers.”
It will be one of nine races on a Cup program which also includes the famous 1010m Shorts Handicap, the Brian Baldwin Maiden (1400m) and the iconic 1400m Inverell Cup. Mike Witherdin said the late club president Don Bartlett “died suddenly in September” and it “was his idea to support the one-day clubs and was put to Racing NSW prior to his death.”
As such horses running at Tabulam on Saturday will be able to nominate for the Bush Battlers Cup with the six runners in the $7000 Yugilbar Pastoral Co Sam Hordern Memorial Tabulam Cup (1400m) prime possibilities for the January 1, 1400m Bush Battlers Cup at Inverell. Saturday’s Tabulam Cup is dominated by two trainers – Beaudesert’s Ben Robinson and Casino’s Stephen Bennett.
Robinson has three runners in the Tabulam Cup – last start winner Champagne Rock, Red Bohemia and Token Gesture, while Bennett runs last start winner Traconi and resuming Would Be A Bonus. Coffs Harbour trainer, Sally Taylor, has the other starter, Finnegan.
Taylor also has one runner, Striving To Win, entered at Ballina in Monday’s Woolam Constructions Class 1 & Maiden Plate (1605m) while Bennett also Cantellate in the Tricare Hastings Point Benchmark 57 Handicap (1905m). The five-year-old gelding son of Exceed And Excel, winner of three from 38 starts, was second to Hope Island at Ballina on Monday.
Hope Island was part of brilliant day for Lismore trainer, Daniel Bowen. He had three runners at Ballina, winning with Dux Nutz and Hope Island while debutant, Pink Carnation was a close second to stablemate Dux Nutz. That the Ballina Jockey Club raced at all was nothing short of miraculous after the track received 90mm of rain the night before. However, the track raced truly and without any real kickback to the amazement of most and delight of trainers and jockeys.
Ben Looker, who won aboard mudlark Aquajewel for Ballina trainer Steven Phelps, was vast in praise for the club. “I couldn’t believe they raced,” he said after his win. I thought they’d be off for sure but they have the track in magnificent order and it is racing really well.”
Ballina Jockey Club chief executive officer, Matt Bertram, said the track had raced “amazingly well”. “But we do say there are two tracks up here, a winter track and a summer track. With the heat in the air the summer tracks can dry out.
“The stewards also made a bold call, looked at the start times, the field sizes and the drying ability. We were pretty stoked with that. And the track did race so well, it was quite safe and a great result for us.”
He said the track has had another 35mm since, which hasn’t helped as far as racing Monday’s seven-race TAB program. “We will race Monday with no problems,” Matt Bertram promised.