Kembla Grange trainer Kerry Parker vowed to let his first Group 1 win sink in before pondering spring plans for last Saturday’s Queensland Derby winner, Dark Dream.
Dark Dream had to dig deep at the end of the 2200-metre Classic to reel in Heavenly Thought and score by a short neck with a further 2¾ lengths to gallant Sydney filly Youngstar, who came from the tail of the field on the turn to claim third.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to win a Group 1,” Parker said. “I’ve only got a small stable and I think I’ve had six Group 1 placings, so to finally get one has left me very happy.”
Dark Dream started $4.20 favourite in the derby despite having managed only third to Heavenly Thought in the main lead-up, the Grand Prix Stakes — a result jockey Tim Clark described as “a bit of a hiccup”.
“Kerry was always confident he’d have the horse right on the day.
“It’s always a pleasure to ride for a smaller trainer, but it’s always hard for them to get a really good horse and compete at the top level.”
As for the “hiccup”, Parker said: “I’d been saying all along that people shouldn’t drop off the horse, because he had no luck in the Grand Prix. It was probably a huge effort for him to get as close as he did that day.”
Tamworth trainer Michelle Fleming is eyeing off the Grafton carnival for The Lion’s next start after the four-year-old, relishing the heavy 9 track, careered away to a 3½-length win in the Class 3 TAB Highway Handicap (1100m) at Randwick last Saturday.
It was the gelding’s second win in a Highway race and Fleming’s second city win.
“I’m so excited. I can’t believe it,” Fleming said.
“I wanted to come back to Sydney because he was still a Class 3, but on the way down I was thinking, ‘Why do I do this to myself?’
Winning jockey Chris O’Brien said The Lion had run well.
“He travelled up to the corner, dragged me up the hill and when I pushed the button, he went.”
To make a good day even better, Fleming took out the final race on the Tamworth program, the 1000-metre Class 2, with Herecum Da Drums, ridden by apprentice Wendy Peel.
The win gave Peel a winning double, as she’d also won the first, a 1200-metre maiden, aboard Morethanmagico for another local trainer in Sue Grills.
Irish jockey, Billy Cray, who is now based in the Hunter Valley, followed up on his recent four-win haul at Brewarrina with a double at Tamworth to share riding honours with Peel.
One to follow from the Tamworth meeting is the Craig Martin-trained Lookin’ Alive.
Ridden by Joshua Oliver, this five-year-old was impressive in winning the 1000-metre maiden by nearly four lengths at just his third start.
Bog suits boy
Japanese import Hallelujah Boy, trained at Newcastle by Kris Lees, scored his first win in 840 days when he held off Solo Mission to take out the 2000-metre benchmark 87 at Randwick last Saturday.
The five-year-old entire appeared to appreciate the heavy conditions. With the prospect of more heavy tracks as we head into winter, he could pay to follow.
Another from the Lees stable who looks to have more wins ahead is Smart Melody.
This two-year-old filly streeted her rivals in taking out the 900-metre two-year-old maiden by more than five lengths at Newcastle last Saturday.
That was the first leg of a winning double for Lees, who also won the 1400-metre benchmark 64 with La Pont.
Both horses were ridden by Andrew Gibbons, who rode four winners on the eight-race program.
Former picnic jockey Billy Owen recently handed in his amateur rider’s licence in order to resume his professional apprenticeship.
Owen’s move followed the retirement of Caulfield Cup runner-up Single Gaze, whom he’d cared for throughout her career.
“I loved being with Single Gaze for all those big days, but I’ve only ever wanted to be a jockey, so when she finished, it was time to give it a good go,” Owen said.
The jockey is now indentured to Canberra trainer Nick Olive and has wasted no time making an impact. He has ridden winners for Olive and another leading Canberra trainer, Matthew Dale, in the past week.
Punters at the Sapphire Coast last Sunday saw a thrilling finish to the feature Merimbula Jazz Cup (1600m) with Charlie Royale ($5.50), trained by Matthew Stephens and ridden by Michael Travers, scoring narrowly from Ziganui with Willy White Sox third.
The day’s other feature, the Jazz Festival Sprint (1200m), yielded a more comprehensive result. Janis ($8), trained by Chris Hensler and ridden by Mel Kinny, scored an impressive three-length win over $3.20 favourite Uno Best.
Earlier, trainer Theresa Bateup and jockey Jess Taylor combined to win the first three races on the seven-race program.
Family and friends of the late Bob Foran gathered to farewell the respected racecaller in his home town of Gilgandra early this week.
Foran died at age 80 after a long battle with cancer.
He called his first race on radio at the age of just 13.
In 2015, at the Racing NSW Country and Provincial Awards night, he was presented with a Special Recognition Award following his 60th Gilgandra Cup as caller.
Friend and fellow racecaller, Col Hodges remembered Foran as “a great racecaller, who was highly respected throughout the racing industry.”