NSW country: Clear Thinking continues to surprise
By Tim Egan, July 8, 2024 - 1:49 PM

Imported mare Clear Thinking could not have been more impressive in taking out last Saturday’s edition of the TAB Highway series at Randwick, a 1200-metre, Class 3 handicap.
After slipping as she left the barriers, the five-year-old was trapped midfield in traffic until nearing the 100-metre mark, where apprentice Zac Lloyd found a gap.
Charging through, Clear Thinking ($2.10 favourite) collared Tanglewood just before the post to win by a half-neck with Lisztomania just a long neck away in third place.
“Saved by a very good horse,” said a relieved Lloyd on returning to scale.
“She slipped quite badly at the start. I was then stuck behind all these horses and you wouldn’t have found a slower-run Highway.
“Because they went so slow, I didn’t want to go back inside in the straight because they wouldn’t be stopping in front of her.
“At the hundred I thought we were no chance. I don’t know how she won. Not many horses could have won from where she was.”
Paul Messara, who trains the mare at Scone in partnership with Leah Gavranich, was similarly effusive.
 “At the hundred I thought we were doing it pretty tough but then she got out and to finish off like she did was exciting. To win like that was excellent,” he said.
“She has been a complete surprise for us since coming out from England and doing what she’s done has been a bonus.
“At home, she’s a horse who doesn’t do a hell of a lot on the training track. People ask me, ‘How good is she?’ and I really don’t know because what you see here is where she puts in and on the racetrack she is a very relaxed horse.
“It wasn’t straightforward today. Tanglewood is a very good horse and he kept going right to the line so it was a big effort by Clear Thinking to show that turn of foot on this type of ground (heavy 8).”
Clear Thinking, by Dubawi from Gai Waterhouse-trained Galaxy winner Sweet Idea, was bred in Great Britain to northern-hemisphere time, foaled in April 2020. She now has three wins from three starts.
She will be sent for a spell before brought back into work and set for the $2 million Kosciuszko (1200 metres) at Randwick on October 19.
Around the traps
Wet-weather woes continued across the state last weekend with Wyong’s Saturday meeting postponed to Monday then washed out again, and the Saturday Coffs Harbour meeting postponed to this Saturday then abandoned entirely.
That left just two Saturday meetings, at Nyngan and Mungindi.
In central NSW, the Duck Creek club’s Nyngan Picnic Cup (1250m) went to the old firm of Dubbo trainer Connie Greig and jockey Leandro Ribeiro with last-start Quambone winner Belle O’ ballee ($4).
Up on the Queensland border at Mungindi, apprentice Ella Drew rode a double.
At Goulburn the previous day, the meeting was abandoned after the fifth race due to the condition of the track but not before trainer Matthew Dale and jockey Nick Heywood had combined to land a winning double.
Also at Goulburn, jockey Jean Van Overmeire edged closer to a century of winners for the season when he rode Unwritten to victory in the 1200-metre benchmark 66 for Warwick Farm trainer Gregory Hickman.
At Mudgee on Sunday, trainer Gayna Williams combined with jockey Mikayla Weir for a double as did Mack Griffith with Aaron Bullock and Annabel Neasham with Ellen Hennessy. At the Grafton meeting the same afternoon, trainers Fleur Blanch and Brett Bellamy landed doubles.
Whopper winter weekend
This Friday sees racing at Moruya and Scone, while Saturday sees Taree (postponed from Thursday) join Cowra, Newcastle and Wean. 
It’s cup day at the Wean picnics in the north west, with the 1600-metre feature supported by the 1000-metre Bracelet.
Sunday they’re racing at Grafton and Narrandera.
At Grafton, where we’re building to next week’s Ramornie/Grafton Cup double-header, the feature is the South Grafton Quality Cup.
Narrandera’s Showcase meeting, with $300,000 in prizemoney on offer, is led by the $60,000 Narrandera Cup (1600m).
Both Sunday’s cup races are eligibility races for the $3 million Big Dance at Randwick in November.
Horses already qualified for the Big Dance are Mayfair Spirit, Tavi Time, Loch Eagle, Kinloch and Rogue Bear, all from the powerful Kris Lees stables at Newcastle, plus Sky Lab from the Paul Perry stables and Overriding from the Nathan Doyle yard.  
In other country-cup news, this year’s Taree Gold Cup meeting is to be run on Friday October 18.
In addition to the Gold Cup, the Krambach Cup will be run on the same program for the first time. In a coup for the Manning Valley Race Club,  the meeting is to be sponsored by Sky International.
Cash splash
Millions of dollars are being poured into infratsructure at provincial and country clubs across NSW according to a report in this month’s Racing NSW magazine.
The Murrumbidgee Turf Club for example has invested $400,000 in installing solar lights at its track in Wagga.
“The lights will now enable trackwork to take place from 5am to 9am, six days per week, 52 weeks a year,” MTC CEO Jason Ferrario is quoted as saying.
At Scone 300 stables and a Polytrack training surface, jointly funded by Racing NSW and the state government, are in the works.
Those two bodies have also combined to fund the construction of 24  stables at the Sapphire Coast racecourse.
At Orange an additional 50 stables are to be built while at Gosford racing and training surfaces are being improved and new stables built.
At Dubbo, the Dubbo Turf Club and RNSW are combining to build an all-weather training surface.
Other tracks to benefit from improvements to their training and/or course proper surfaces include Kembla Grange, Port Macquarie, Albury, Grafton and Wyong.


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