October 23, 2020 Michael Court
It has been a stellar season, albeit and extended one, for young Novocastrian Blake Hughes who will contest the Rising Stars Championship as the one to beat when he takes the reins behind the Roy Roots Jnr-trained MARTY MAJOR (5). Sitting in fifth spot with 115 wins on the State’s Driver’s Championship and third behind Tom Ison and Cameron Hart for the Leading Concession Driver’s Title, Blake will be looking to build on his outstanding record over the past 12 months, and he must be favoured to do so, despite the depth of his talented rivals. Marty Major has been a regular visitor to Menangle over the past month and he has been reliable along the way, posting a win and three placings, prior to his latest brave effort in defeat. Left facing the breeze, Marty Major battled on stoutly in finishing a 6m 5th to Some Waratah, which covered the opening 400m in 25.6, prior to posting a 28.1 final quarter. Handily drawn in five, Marty Major has the opportunity to secure a role close to the action from the outset, and if he did find the lead, that would certainly enhance his claims of greeting the judge. There will be no shortage of dangers with the main threat appearing to be STAR MAJOR (2) which has drawn ideally in two for Bayley Duck. The James Rattray-conditioned 4yo, who is also a son of Art major, posted a win and two placings at Menangle, prior to overcoming a back row draw and a rearward role in treating his rivals with contempt at Wagga a few weeks ago. Star Major finished a solid 2nd to Red Reactor in a G3 event on September 12, with Marty Major a close third. Jack Callaghan, who is driving in superb form, will take the drive behind the in-form Dean Cernovskis-trained GAME SET MAJOR (8), which will have been freshened since arriving back from a Queensland with a hat-trick of wins next to his name. Defending champion Josh Gallagher has also been driving in great fashion and he can’t be left out of the equation, despite drawing wide with the Jarrod Alchin-trained ONE HELL OF A RIDE (10). Stepping out for his first challenge in three months, the 8yo hit the line nicely in posting a 5m 3rd to Ziggy Rocks at Bathurst on October 9. Stepping out for his 50th home start, One Hell Of A Ride is more than capable of sitting back and watching things unfold before making his presence felt over the final 200m. ASHARK (1) has drawn ideally in one and his recent Menangle form is certainly good enough to assist young Lleyton Green in his quest for early glory. BLASTER RANGER (7) has won his past three and James McPherson will be hoping that the Shane Sanderson-trained son of Caribbean Blaster can continue on his winning way.
MARTY MAJOR 1, Star Major 2, Game Set Major 3, One Hell Of A Ride 4.
What a remarkable season REPLACED EYE (10) is enjoying in particular the second half where he has developed into a class act. From his past 11 starts the Craig Cross-trained son of Rocknroll Hanover has contested 11 races, winning three while finishing runner-up on 11 occasions. With the ‘big boys’ (Cash N Flow and King Of Swing) out of the way, Replaced Eye has managed to post back-to-back wins, the latter being one for the highlight reel. Dictating the terms, with Robert Morris in the sulky, Replaced Eye was headed in the run home, but picked himself off the canvas in landing the final blow, which enabled him to defeat Pitch Perfect and Ashley Locaz. The wide gate, while being a nuisance once again, certainly won’t prevent Replaced Eye and Morris again attacking the opening stages with a high level of determination as they look to dictate the terms once again, or at the very least, take a sit on another Cross runner in ALTA ORLANDO (9). The Miracle Mile placegetter has contested six races since a spell and is yet to greet the judge, which is surprising for a horse of his talent. The 8yo posted four-consecutive placings, prior to galloping out when a distant last to Zennart at this venue before finishing a 31.7m 9th to Lochinvar Art in the Victoria Cup two weeks ago. There is no doubting his talent, so expect Alta Orlando to make a bold play for the top spot, which will be his first since late February. THE BLACK PRINCE (11) has been runner-up in each of his past three runs, the latest when he again finished stoutly when he narrowly failed to peg back Mafuta Vautin last week. The outside gate will again see him giving away a start, however, the talented 5yo peaks in condition following four runs since a spell so don’t write him off as a threat. The good draw will assist SHORTYS MATE (3) in his quest for a shot at an exotic role while ALPINE STRIDE (2), PITCH PERFECT (4) and BROCKS TERRITORY (8) also have claims in that regard.
REPLACED EYE 1, Alta Orlando 2, The Black Prince 3, Shortys Mate 4.
This will be the tenth running of the Kari JC Caffyn Drivers Plate, the event set aside for Indigenous Drivers, and with the heats cancelled due to the virus, a number of previous winners will again be involved. There is also plenty of depth in the field, as far as, the horse flesh is concerned with the majority of the field regular performers at the track. One such runner is the Paul Fitzpatrick-trained DEE DOUBLE YOU (7) which has been in fine form at Headquarters of late. And, what an outstanding opportunity David Caffyn, the grandson of the great JC Caffyn, to add his name to the Honour Roll. After posting a couple of solid placings in mid-September, Dee Double You hasn’t been disgraced in his past couple of unplaced efforts. Left facing the breeze when a gritty 15.9m 4th to Some Waratah, the Sportswriter 4yo then worked home stoutly when a gritty 7.2m 6th, again behind Some Waratah in a G3 event. Gate seven will be his starting point, and Caffyn is likely to make a play for the role as pacemaker, and if that plan comes off, then Dee Double You will be well on his way to giving David the chance to experience a career highlight. HELD TO RANSOM (6) is the one most likely to prove hard to beat, as the talented mare looks to make amends after failing to score up with the rest of the field here on Tuesday. Starting an odds-on favourite, on the strength of her previous outstanding form, the mare completed the course a distance last in the race won by Everybodylovedray. Usually a good beginner, Held To Ransom holds the key when it comes to the early battle for supremacy, with Dee Double You likely to follow her across to the markers. Danny Gatt-Bouquet will take the reins behind the KerryAnn Turner-conditioned mare who has been at her best when able to dictate. RED REACTOR (1) has drawn ideally in one, compared to the outside gate when eased back in racing four pegs, en route to a 17.7m 9th to Jay Ok here recently. The 5yo had been racing well prior to that outing and he will give Jessica Prior every chance to add to her 2015 title. BACKINTOWN (10) has drawn awkwardly out deep but the David Thorn-trained 4yo is racing in fine fashion, having won his past two at Penrith. Danny Scanlan is likely to allow the son of Bettors Delight to ‘finds his legs’, before the pair set about making a play for the title over the final 200m. MAESTRO BELLINI (8) has been below his best of late but the 6yo is capable of giving plenty of cheek, with Danny Gibson taking the reins. Exotic investors should also keep SHINING FROST (3), who will be driven by Hayden Green, and I AM SERENGETI (4) in the mix with the latter to be driven by Jimmy Brown, the driving force behind the series.
DEE DOUBLE YOU 1, Held To Ransom 2, Red Reactor 3, Backintown 4.
The first of four Group One trophies will be handed out here, with the NSWBC 3YO Colts & Geldings title ‘kicking off’ proceedings. Although confronted with a wide draw, exciting prospect PRIVATE EYE (9) looks the one to beat. After commencing his career in Victoria, where he posted wins at Geelong and Gunbower earlier in the year while under the care of Ahmed and Fred Taiba, the 3yo son of Hes Watching then debuted for Robert Xerri at Bathurst on October 7, his first outing eight months, when he treated his rivals with contempt in winning a heat of this series by 37. The ease of the win surprised driver Robert Morris, who later stated he still had plenty in reserve. The task became tougher when Private Eye faced the starter for his semi-final appearance at Headquarters last week but, once again, Private Eye did the job in an exciting manner. Crossing to the pegs in the early stages of the 1609m challenge, Private Eye again displayed his potential with a stylish display and, once again Morris was full of praise for the undefeated gelding. With the minimum of fuss and effort, Private Eye switched into another gear soon after heads were turned for home, paving the way for a comfortable 1.9m winning margin over Jerulas Grin while Mach Dan clocked in third. Morris again had something left in the locker, although Private Eye still managed to cover his last 400m in 26.4. Morris will come out and have a look with Private Eye, but the ‘Menangle Marvel’ is confident the bay doesn’t have to lead – to win. With a relaxed racing style and the ability to go from cruise control to high speed, Morris is confident Private Eye has that ‘x-factor’ about him. MACH DAN (4) has been steadily building his way back to peak fitness following three sound efforts from a spell and for new mentor Tim Butt. Formerly with Emma Stewart the talented son of Mach Three has finished third in each of his runs this term, the latest when he worked home nicely for an 8.9m effort behind Private Eye. From his ideal draw, Mach Dan is likely to receive a kind run behind the speed, leaving him poised to make his presence felt. CRUNCH TIME (7) looks the likely leading and although beaten as a $1.65 in his semi, the Rickie Alchin-trained gelding is entitled to be rated as a major player for the title. Prior to his 1.4m 2nd to Our Money Rocks, Crunch Time had won his previous two starts in an exciting manner and he will again make things difficult for his rivals. JERULAS GRIN (1) has drawn perfectly and he won’t be far away when the judge calls a halt. Outside of the ‘big four’, OUR MONEY ROCKS (11), despite the tricky draw, stays in the mix as an exotic chance, along with JIMARTEE (5).
PRIVATE EYE 1, Mach Dan 2, Crunch Time 3, Jerulas Grin 4.
The 3YO fillies will face the starter for G1 glory and with the benefit of an ideal draw, the Michael Doltoff-trained KEEP ROCKIN (3) is worthy of an investment, with ‘big time’ driver Luke McCarthy again taking the reins behind the daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven. Four runs into her latest term of racing, Keep Rockin managed to score a narrow, but convincing win last week when she enjoyed doing the chasing instead of dictating the terms, which was the case when she finished a fading 13.4m 4th to Vincenzina in her heat. Despite drawing wide in her semi-final last week, Keep Rockin, due to a masterly drive by McCarthy, found herself in a three peg role after overcoming an early check. When produced on straightening for home, Keep Rockin hit the line with plenty confidence in greeting the judge. The pressure will be on from the outset and that will suit Keep Rockin and ‘cool hand’ Luke. JENDEN STRIKE (9) is an outstanding filly, as her record would suggest having won 50% of her 19 starts. However, less the reserve, the Chris Frisby-trained star will launch her claim from gate eight. The daughter of Betterthancheddar was able to hold the inside running, courtesy of the prized pole position in her semi, however, the early burn, which resulted in a 26.8m opening quarter, left her vulnerable for the run home. The end result was a 2.7m 3rd to Keep Rockin and Delightful Angel. Anthony Frisby will again be keen to have Jenden Strike in the thick of the action, and, as per usual, the filly will take a power of beating. DELIGHTFUL ANGEL (4) certainly caught the eye with her fast-finishing 2m 2nd to Keep Rockin last week. Coming from a four peg role after being eased from a wide gate, the James Rattray trained and driven filly made up many metres in a short space of time. Gate three will be a big plus and if there is to be an upset, Delightful Angel is capable of providing such a result. Gate one is perfect for the consistent Lucky Lodge entrant, EYE CAN RUN (1). The filly has been a model of consistency throughout her career, with her 2.9m 4th to Keep Rockin last week, the result of a kind run behind the leader. Robert Morris will again present the filly with a cosy run, waiting for that opportunity to pounce over the final 200m.
Exotic players should also in include the Queenslander PELOSI (6), who had every chance when beaten into second spot by Adira last week. Also, DELIGHTFUL ANGEL (4) is worthy of consideration from her soft draw.
KEEP ROCKIN 1, Jenden Strike 2, Delightful Angel 3, Eye Can Run 4.
The youngsters will go in search of early Group One glory with the Colts & Geldings taking centre stage first-up. This does appear a race in two, with the powerful Craig Cross stable represented by BAR ROOM BANTA (8) while Brian Portelli and his G1 Gold Crown winner, TASTY DELIGHT (7) looking to add another title to their portfolio. BAR ROOM BANTA has been highly impressive since joining the Cross team after a promising start to his career while under the care of top Victorian trainer-driver Michael Stanley. Unbeaten in three starts since heading north, the impressive A Rocknroll Dance colt had little trouble leading throughout in his heat, prior to again dictating when he had something in reserve in proving a shade too good for a brave Tasty Delight. Bar Room Banta posted a 26.6 opening quarter before coming home in 27.5, with McCarthy making sure to give his star colt a comfortable finish to the contest, with the title on the line the following week. TASTY DELIGHT (7) has drawn just one spot closer to the pegs than Bar Room Banta, and Portelli will be keen to make sure his arch rival doesn’t have everything his own way. Boasting five wins from just seven starts, and a couple of placings, Tasty Delight refused to throw in the towel last week and it will be the same story here. HE AINT FAKIN (11) will be required to overcome the outside gate if Chris and Anthony Frisby are to lift the trophy. The Art Major youngster drew nine in his semi, however, after working through the opening quarter Frisby (Anthony) was able to work across the field to take up the running. Displaying plenty of determination over the final stages, He Aint Fakin held a nose margin to the winning post over Watts Up Sunshine, but a shift over the final 500m resulted in baulking the runner-up and the Stewards deemed it enough to reverse the result. Tough and talented, there is nothing fake about the gelding who will again be in for the fight. Gate one is a bonus for the consistent ELECTRIC EYE (1) who is capable of pouncing on any opportunity which may come his way over the final stages. WATTS UP SUNSHINE (1) is racing in great heart and although the draw is a hurdle, the Rickie Alchin-trained youngster can’t be left out of the equation when it comes to exotic transactions while his other runner, CAPTAIN CRUSADER (2) also warrants attention in that regard after drawing ideally.
BAR ROOM BANTA 1, Tasty Delight 2, He Aint Fakin 3, Electric Eye 4.
Another enthralling contest will unfold when the 2YO Fillies face the starter for their shot at Group One stardom. Boasting four wins from just five trips to the races, the Craig Cross-conditioned SOHO ALMASI (6) is the one to beat, although ANNTONIA (2) will make sure that the title will be fought out, all the way to the winning post. Like Bar Room Banta, Soho Almasi was sent north by Michael Stanley with this title in mind. And, the classy daughter of Mach Three has kept up her end of the bargain. Also contesting three races leading into the most important race of her career to date, Soho Almasi led in her heat win, but Anntonia made sure she didn’t have everything her own way, with only the head margin keeping the pair apart when the judge called a halt. An impressive individual, Soho Almasi then enjoyed a ‘cold’ sit on Arma Renegade in her semi-final win last week, with Luke McCarthy allowing the filly to cruise home under a hold, resulting in a comfortable win, although the final 400m was wrapped up in sizzling 26.0. Soho Almasi covered the final 200m with ease and she will look to stamp her authority on this race from the outset. David Thorn has timed his preparation to the ‘split second’ with his exciting filly, ANNTONIA (2). Throughout her brief career, which involves six starts, three resulting in wins while the other trio of appearances have been placings, Anntonia has never had an easy time off it, working and earning her success with sheer talent and determination. The filly worked, despite drawing three, in her semi, en route to proving too good for her rivals, with Jack Trainor releasing the reins on straightening for home. As if he pushed a ‘go’ button, Anntonia switched into another gear, leaving her rivals fighting out the minors as she lengthened stride in greeting the judge by a convincing margin. Trainor said on Club Menangle TV during the week that the daughter of Bettors Delight has never been asked for an early burst of speed from the machine, although she hasn’t had many chances to do so from tricky draws, but wouldn’t be surprised if the filly did so now that the title is on the line. ARMA RENEGADE (12) has drawn awkwardly out wide but remains a definite exotic contender after a game 2nd to Soho Almasi, her first defeat in five starts. When it comes to exotic betting, IMA JOYRIDE (7) is as honest as they come so she is worthy of attention, along with HEAVENLY HOLLY (9) and GIRL FROM OZ (3).
SOHO ALMASI 1, Anntonia 2, Arma Renegade 3, Ima Joyride 4.
Disappointing in three runs from a spell, DROP THE HAMMER (5) only needs to be 80% near his best to treat this field with contempt. Boasting 17 wins, all recorded at this venue, the Darren Hancock trained and driven 5yo, who started his career as pacer before switching gaits, hasn’t been himself this time in, with his latest effort resulting in a 48.2m 8th to Tough Monarch a few weeks ago. Suitably drawn in five, it should be a matter of Drop The Hammer finding the pegs first, then the next step will be to keep on improving his position until the judge calls a halt to proceedings. DENEUVE STAR (4) looks the only possible threat to Drop The Hammer nailing a win. The mare, who is a member of the Blake Fitzpatrick stable, hasn’t done a great deal either in two runs back, but the master conditioner of trotters should have her fitness level peaking so expect a far better effort from the daughter of Orlando Vici. SOBOMBA (3) has been thereabouts of late and with the benefit of a good draw, the “Team Rando’ runner is capable of giving plenty of cheek. Noted trotting trainer Grant Forrest believes in ‘safety in numbers’ as he has five of the nine runners, with CHATEAUBRIANT (9) his choice and CRITICAL ADVANTAGE (2) appearing to be his two main players so include them in multiple investments.
DROP THE HAMMER 1, Deneuve Star 2, Sobomba 3, Chateaubriant 4.
There is no more passionate mentor in the trotting ranks than Russell Commens and his consistent 3yo SUNNY GEE (8) will be looking to give him a deserving win in the NSW 3YO Trot Final. The son of Majestic Son is yet to greet the judge after 19 attempts, but the gelding has been consistent of late in posting a number of sound displays. Resuming with a fine 2nd to Muscle Hillbilly, which has won impressively since, Sunny Gee led when a gritty 2nd to another type in Aldebaran Ursula. Fitter and suitably placed in this field, despite the wide gate, Sunny Gee is more than capable of greeting the judge for the first time. FOX TROT HILL (5) has two wins to her credit and she does appear to be the one to beat as a result. Spelled after back-to-back wins here in June, the John Ogden trained and driven filly resumed with an 81.6m 10th to Pink Galahs in the Victoria Trotters Oaks at Melton last week. The daughter of Muscle Hill will appreciate this far more easier assignment while her fitness level has also received a big boost. ROYALEBOMBA (3), GUNNER (5) and STRONG DESIRE (1), which is a stablemate of Fox Trot Hill, all have exotic prospects while DONT TOUCH THIS (2) is open to improvement.
SUNNY GEE 1, Fox Trot Hill 2, Royalebomba 3, Gunner 4.
Only four runners will face the starter for the final event on what will be an exciting night of racing. ON ADVICE (4) looks to have the race at his mercy. The Blake Fitzpatrick trained and driven 2yo son of Sebastian K has two wins and three placings to show for his seven starts, by far the best record of the quartet. On Advice resumed with an 11.2m 3rd to Aldebaran Ursula a couple of weeks ago, and with that run under his belt, it should be a case of win number three coming his way. DAIMYO (1) scored on debut but has been safely held in four subsequent starts, however, he is strongly favoured to follow On Advice home. VACKER KVINNA (3) has been well-beaten in a number of trials, the latest on Wednesday, while AFFAIRE DE COVER (2) has race experience but has done little in those five runs.
ON ADVICE 1, Daimyo 2, Vacker Kvinna 3, Affaire De Cover 4.
- MICK KO’CASS