South coast jockey Brock Ryan, who recently completed his apprenticeship with Nowra trainer Robert Clarke, maintained his fine recent form by nabbing a winning double at Randwick last Sunday.
Favourite Lady Of Luxury was his first, in the 1200 metre Benchmark 78, and he followed up with a victory on $26 chance Parry Sound in the $160,000 Group 3, Summer Cup (2000 metres).
Both winners were prepared by Bjorn Baker.
“I haven’t ridden a lot for Bjorn so it is good to capitalise on these opportunities,” Ryan said.
Earlier in the day, the 1100-metre Class 3 TAB Highway Handicap was won by the Cody Morgan-trained Anathole, ridden by Tom Sherry, while the 2000-metre Midway Handicap was taken by Pecuniary Interest, trained by John Sargent and ridden by Hugh Bowman.
Top day for Lee
Local trainer Stephen Lee made a successful return to the Ballina race track last Sunday.
He took out the 1310-metre maiden handicap with Byron Eyes and then the 1410-metre Benchmark 58 with Toots Is Tops.
Both horses were ridden by four-kilo claiming apprentice Jai Williams.
Lee left the Ballina area a few years ago and set up stables on the Gold Coast, citing the poor condition of the sand track at Ballina as a major factor in his decision. He kept his property at Ballina and recently bought another.
“It’s a beautiful property, just an easy walk to Nine Mile Beach where we work the horses,” he said.
“It’s a sixty-acre property and I’ve spent three months setting it up with stables, yards and fences. I’ve now got nine yards with stables, seven day yards and fifteen stables. Once the horses come back from the beach they go into the yards.
“The two properties now complement each other. I’ve currently got 35 horses in work, which is less than I previously had but I’m hoping now we can attract new clients and more horses. I could take another 15.
Along with the Ballina and Randwick meetings on Sunday there were programs at Newcastle, Wauchope, Quirindi, Tumut, Albury, Inverell and Queanbeyan.
At Wauchope, Georgina McDonnell and Jon Grisedale both rode doubles, with McDonnell winning the main race, the 1800-metre Woop Woop Cup aboard the Jeremy Sylvester trained Harry And The Duke.
At Quirindi, Madeline Owen scored a treble which included a win on House Wins for trainer Jane Clement in the Murrurundi Cup.
Jodi Worley and Scott Sweedman collected doubles at the Inverell meeting while trainer Paddy Cunningham led in a winning double. Both Cunningham’s winners were ridden by Worley.
Hannah Williams and Jake Bayliss shared riding honours on the five-race program at Albury, with each winning two races.
The Queanbeyan meeting had to be abandoned due to the state of the track after just two races.
There is no doubt that country racing has been seriously affected by the cancellation of non-TAB and picnic meetings during the Covid pandemic and it was an issue raised with me by a country trainer during the week.
In addition to the cancellations, the trainer said that at country TAB meetings, much of the prizemoney is often won by provincial and city trainers because so many country horses are being balloted out.
“I don’t blame the trainers for using the system to their advantage but at what cost to the industry?” he said.
“Country owners and trainers are becoming increasingly disillusioned. Something has to be done before the bottom falls out of the industry and welfare farms are overwhelmed with racehorses that have been retired through a lack of opportunities to race.”
The trainer offered the following suggestion: “As opportunities to race at the lower levels are limited, I would place metro and provincial horses at the bottom of the ballot for country TAB meetings, just as they did to the Canberra-trained horses in the Highways, with country horses first, then provincial, then metropolitan.”