Can­berra train­ers ruled in­el­i­gi­ble for the High­way

The Sportsman Weekend - - Caulfield & Randwick - with Neil Evans

HERE we go again.

Only weeks af­ter I made a song and dance about pro­vin­cial cen­tres like Gos­ford Wy­ong be­ing the “for­got­ten rung” on rac­ing’s new-look lad­der, now Can­berra has copped a black eye — seem­ingly vic­tim of its own suc­cess!

This week Rac­ing NSW re­leased a state­ment headed: “Can­berra Trained Horses In­el­i­gi­ble for High­way Races from 9 Dec., 2017!”

In it, the Board states that af­ter con­sid­er­ing “sub­mis­sions” by sev­eral par­ties, it was now of the view that, “based on qual­ity of train­ing and other fa­cil­i­ties avail­able to them, Can­ber­ra­trained horses are the equal of NSW Pro­vin­cial-trained horses, which also in­el­i­gi­ble for High­way races.”

The de­ci­sion has left a bit­ter taste across the rac­ing-mad Can­berra re­gion, con­sid­er­ing the club is small­est rac­ing ju­ris­dic­tion

in Aus­tralia.

CEO at Through­bred Park Peter Stubbs said he was “very dis­ap­pointed with the out­come,” but would be mon­i­tor­ing the im­me­di­ate and long-term fu­ture of the pop­u­lar High­way se­ries.

“The dis­ap­point­ing as­pect is that it’s re­ally not about the money, we run coun­try races, and coun­try peo­ple any­where just love hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to win a race at Rand­wick or Rose­hill,” Mr Stubbs told the Sports­man.

There’s no doubt the lu­cra­tive “High­way” path for coun­try-trained horses to a po­ten­tial Au­tumn Fi­nal at Rand­wick — a con­cept first aired in this col­umn more than three years ago — has been a breath of fresh where-ever you turn.

There’s also no doubt there were rum­blings galore at midyear rac­ing con­fer­ences about High­way race eli­gi­bil­ity, and Can­berra has paid the price for a pound­for-pound strike-rate that is rarely matched any­where in the land, de­spite op­er­at­ing as a Coun­try — not Provin­cal — rac­ing cen­tre.

Should it be pun­ished be- cause young train­ers like Matt Dale and Nick Olive have trail­blazed a path­way to city even car­ni­val suc­cess?

In ef­fect, NSW has sim­ply ap­plied a Non/State territory rule to Can­berra sta­bles. Hop the bor­der 10 min­utes to Quean­beyan and you would be sweet.

And maybe small-time 65-year-old trainer Philip Court­ney had al­ready sealed Can­berra’s fate when his un­der­rated mare Mary­ore charged home from nowhere to win the 2017 Pro­vin­cial Fi­nal in April.

NSW Rac­ing of­fi­cially lists Gos­ford, New­cas­tle, Wy­ong, Illawarra and Hawkes­bury as “Pro­vin­cial” rac­ing Cen­tres, con­sider that in the last three months of Satur­day Metro rac­ing; from 12 High­ways, Can­berra has tri­umphed only twice through Dale with Mossman Gorge who up­set the hot­pot Lifesaver last Satur­day and his good sprinter Clip­per as a pro­nounced favourite back on June 10.

The other races have been well spread since top Mur­willum­bah trainer Matthew Dunn won three in June all as well-backed favs, twice with smart sprinter Zamex and once with Con­niv­ing.

The five in July be­longed to the coun­try with Gunda­gai’s David Blun­dell (It’s A Fait Ac­com­pli); Cess­nock duo Todd Howlett (Nic’s Ven­detta) and Alea­cia Ben­nett ( Buddy Hon­est); Tam­worth’s Me­lanie O’Gor­man (Sun­craze) and Ar­mi­dale’s Stir­ling Os­land (Prada Miss) all en­joy­ing High­way suc­cess.

The first two races in Au­gust be­longed to Scone with Brett Ca­vanough (An­other Sin) and My Tago­son (Rod Northam) win­ning strong re­newals.

Dunn, though, has had by far the big­gest in­flu­ence on

se­ries; de­spite rac­ing more Satur­day grade horses in Bris­bane and the Gold Coast than he would in NSW.

The only sav­ing grace, Can­berra run­ners are still el­i­gi­ble for the $200K An­niver­sary High­way on Ever­est Day at Rand­wick Oct. 14.

Back the track, and Rac­ing NSW would be chuffed 11 ri­vals line up against bul­let­proof won­der mare Winx in the Group 2 Chelmes­ford (1600m) at Rose­hill to­mor­row (Sat) af­ter her mind-blow­ing re­turn in the Group 2 War­wick Stakes a fort­night back, and the early $1.09 at bet­ting. club ac­tu­ally looks value if you’ve got the cash.

Apart from the great one’s mile ‘ ex­hi­bi­tion,’ the high oc­tane cat-and-mouse Group 2 Con­corde ( 1100m) is small but ul­tra qual­ity field, with top-class sprint­ers & re­cent trial win­ners Redzel, Spi­eth and Ni­eta all re­sum­ing.

Tac­ti­cally, the race favours Redzel ($3.90 early bet­ who can cruise across and park out­side The Mon­star, but un­der the Set Weights scale, Ni­eta ($3.70) is well placed to pro­tect an un­beaten record, although she may need a lit­tle more “toe” into the race; but Spi­eth ($3.00 firm­ing) on pure class and a su­pe­rior last 400m sec­tional can beat them all.


1. SPI­ETH; 2. Redzel; 3. Ni­eta

In an­other very good re­newal of the Group 2 Tramway (1400m), I’m keen on Tom Mel­bourne ($7.50 early) aton­ing for be­ing a good thing beaten first-up three weeks back, although I have tremen­dous re­spect for Happy Clap­per ($5.00) fresh off a ter­rific trial and im­pres­sive Group 2 Mis­sile win­ner In­vin­ci­ble Gem ($4.00).


1. TOM MEL­BOURNE; 2. In­vin­ci­ble Gem; 3. Happy Clap­per; 4. McCreery

And in a crack­ing edi­tion of the Group 1 Mem­sie (1400m) at Caulfield, while I’m very keen on Black Heart Bart ($6.50) 2nd-up af­ter his rock-solid re­turn be­hind Hart­nell in the Group 2 P.B. Lawrence, watch out for two stay­ing types rock­et­ing home! Aus­tralian Cup win­ner Hu­mi­dor ($21) would ob­vi­ously like it fur­ther, but his last 200m fresh was out­stand­ing, and if they go along here, watch him power home late star fouryear-old mare Yan­kee Rose ($11) is for­ward enough to sit off the pace and charge home fresh.

Both will be stars in the Spring.

My MEM­SIE Tips:

1. BLACK HEART BART; 2. Hu­mi­dor; 3. Vega Magic Good Luck @NeilE­vans­mail

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