IN last week’s column, the first of the new calendar year, I suggested that 2013 promised to be bigger and better for all, and on Monday that was fulfilled with a record crowd drawn to the Moruya Jockey Club for the running of the Narooma Cup.
With monstrous heatwave conditions prevailing both before and after Monday, Cup Day was miraculously perfect in all respects and our racing community and visitors alike responded accordingly for this wonderful event.
I congratulate our professional and dedicated ground staff for presenting the track in perfect condition, looking better than I’ve seen it in 10 years of racing – a view confirmed by all riders during the course of the afternoon.
It was a great start to the day for the locals when Greg Backhouse’s Briefcase Benny held on bravely under Nathan Berry’s hard riding to take out the Class Three mile by a short head over Kembla visitor Regallic. Matt Stephen’s King Bing, ridden by Roly Saxton, finished a close third.
Briefcase Benny’s three previous runs this campaign, all at Canberra, had close and promising finishes, and Greg had him primed for the extra trip on his home track and he delivered accordingly.
Matt’s King Bing showed enormous improvement in his second run for the stable, after his somewhat dismal near-last debut at Canberra in December and looks like he’s responding well to the change of scenery.
John Marzol’s Tififi almost claimed victory on her debut in the Maiden (1010m) sprint, which was claimed late by Kembla visitor Mykindacolour – the pair fought it out neck and neck up the straight, with just a length between them on the line.
The Class One (1200m) sprint saw Luke Pepper’s Cognac Prince scratched at the barriers, as well as the favourite Extreme Shot, the race going to Kembla-based Majestic Beast, leading in a visitors’ trifecta.
The Maiden (1425m) Plate also went to the visitors, taken out by Rob Price’s $2 race favourite Modest Hero.
The eye-catching run came from Joseph Ible’s Run Pat Run who showed enormous improvement on his two previous starts to finish third in the event.
The locals fought out the minor placings behind Queanbeyan-based Saharamar in the Benchmark 55 (1200m) sprint, with John’s Mineral Deposit, Greg’s Paxton and Luke’s Magic Franco finishing in that order.
The tables then turned in our favour when Luke’s Freetoair held on by a long head in a four-way photo finish over the visitors in an exciting Narooma Town Plate (1200m) with young Brodie Loy in the saddle.
The seven-year-old mare is racing in career-best form this campaign, now with a second and two consecutive wins from her past three runs and she may well back up in the Moruya Town Plate in two weeks’ time, and will be hard to beat again on her home track.
Unfortunately the same result for Luke, and no doubt many punters, did not come to pass in this year’s Narooma Cup (1650m), when Luke’s Quichang led up the straight but was caught in the last stride on the line by Paul Murray’s Kembla-based race-favourite Fair Nation, going down by a half-head and preventing a repeat of last year’s Cup win.
It was a heartbreaking result for the whole team, but that’s racing.
The day ended on a high when John Gamble’s Seanessy got home by a half-head on the line in a three-way photo to take out the Benchmark 60 (1425m) ahead of Bede Murray’s California Poppy.
John’s got the gelding in career-best form and I’m keen to see him next step out.
Luke, Roly and James Geppert bravely made the trip to Wagga on Tuesday with Not On Monday, coming away empty handed, although James claimed a second and a third placing from several rides.
John Marzol’s Grey Drama ran at Warwick Farm on Wednesday where his top weight and outside barrier all counted against him, and he just couldn’t get over to the fence. He wandered wide in the straight, finishing unplaced, and I suggest you overlook that run completely – bad luck to all concerned but he will no doubt bounce right back when better circumstances prevail.
Moruya runners step out today at Canberra, with nominations in the mix for Queanbeyan and Tumut on Saturday, Cowra on Sunday and Nowra on Tuesday in a busy week ahead.
Until next week, good luck and good punting.