Newcastle trainer Kris Lees left no stone unturned in his effort to secure the Provincial Country Championship Final at Randwick on Saturday, starting no fewer than seven of the 15 runners in the $602,000 race restricted to provincial gallopers.
His determination paid off when Serene Miss ($6), ridden by Jason Collett, unleashed a devastating sprint from the rear of the field, to defeat the unlucky Newsfan, with Plaisir in third place.
“She has a terrific turn of foot and it was good to see her show it over 1400 metres. She’ll measure up in some better stakes races,” Lees said.
Collett described the win as “brilliant”.
“I was confident she’d run on but I needed a few things to pan out before then.
“Rounding the bend I was just lucky that Just Dreaming took me into it.
“Once I got into that position I was sure she’d run the trip.
“When I brought her out, she was able to climb through her gears.”
It is likely that Lees will now target a black-type race during the Brisbane winter carnival for Serene Miss.
Racegoers have likely seen the last of the gallant little Canberra mare Single Gaze, after trainer Nick Olive was forced to scratch her from Saturday’s Sydney Cup after blood tests earlier in the week revealed that she had a lower-than-usual red blood-cell count.
The Group 1 winning mare has been sold to Japanese interests and is scheduled to head to Japan later this month to start a new career as a broodmare.
Single Gaze won five of her 33 starts including the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes of 2016 and placed in a further 12 races.
Last spring she put up a courageous effort to run second in the Caulfield Cup, with regular rider Kathy O’Hara in the saddle.
The five-year-old won $2,361,600 in prizemoney.
Trainer talks productive
Earlier this month delegates from the Newcastle Provincial and Country Trainers Association, of which I am secretary, met with NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley and his Shadow Minister for Racing, Michael Daley.
Issues discussed included the NSW trainers workers compensation scheme, health and safety concerns relating to track conditions at several country and provincial racecourses, the benchmark handicapping system and the need for a review of the current rules of racing.
I can report the meeting was productive, with questions regarding the compo scheme having since been referred to the State Insurance Regulatory Authority for investigation.
Should the authority determine that there have been breaches of the Workers Compensation Act, it may well be that trainers, notably provincial and country trainers, will have grounds for a class action against the insurer, which could potentially yield millions of dollars.
The Grenfell Picnic Race Club’s once-a-year meeting last Saturday saw jockey William Pearson combine with trainer Sharon Jeffries to take out three races on the six-race program including the Grenfell Picnic Cup with Rehanaat ($3.40), who scored a comfortable two-length win from nine-year-old veteran Sergeant Bilko.
At Holbrook the same day, the 1400-metre Holbrook Cup was a thriller, with the Russell Green-trained Tableaux ($7), ridden by Tiffany Jeffries, getting up narrowly from Pieceofeight, with the favourite, Didnt Even Kiss Me, a distant third.
A couple for Cahill
Mathew Cahill kept the punters happy at Orange’s annual Showcase meeting last Friday with a popular running double.
Cahill won the $63,700 Orange Cup (2100m) on the Garry White-trained mare Letter to Juliette, who proved too strong for her rivals over the final 200 metres, romping away to score by two lengths from dead-heaters Mister Marmalade and Eerised.
Cahill had taken out the Cup Day Sprint (1000m) 35 minutes earlier aboard the Joe Cleary-trained Lucy Rose.
Both his winners started at $2.70 favourite.
Earlier, in the $39,200 McSigns Country Maiden Showcase Plate (1280m), the Danny Williams-trained first-starter Coup de Main ($2.90 favourite) looked most impressive in winning by more than three lengths under Nick Heywood.
The Reward for Effort three-year-old looks to be worth following in the weeks ahead.
Another feature favourite looked to be home at Armidale on Sunday when the Guyra Cup (1400m) saw Niccobelle dash to a commanding lead, but the gelding was run down by the swooper Exilia Miss ($31) in the shadows of the post.
The winner is trained locally by Stirling Osland and was ridden by Josh Oliver.
On the same day at Wagga Wagga, the Murrumbidgee Cup (1800m) was won by the Barbara Joseph/Paul Jones training partnership with their five-year-old gelding D’Beak ($8.50), ridden by the in-form Mathew Cahill.
This Friday sees Muswellbrook Race Club conduct its Lone Pine Charge meeting, with three $25,000 races on the eight-race card.
Two of the features are 1000-metre sprints for two-year-olds — the Miss Finland for fillies and the Star Kingdom for colts and geldings.
The third of the features is the 1000-metre Lone Pine Charge, which offers the winning owners a most unusual trophy to say the least.
“It’s an 18 pound artillery shell with a base made from cypress pine. It’s a really unique trophy,” club general manager Duane Dowell told media.
Three country clubs will be staging their annual race meetings this Saturday — the Merriwa Race Club, the Tomingley Picnic Race Club and the Hillston Jockey Club. Racegoers are assured of a great day out at any of the three.