Despite the rise in grade, the Troy Williams-trained MANLY MACH (7) is worth the gamble as the son of Mach Three attempts to complete a hat-trick of wins. Assisting in that regard will be Inter Dominion winning reinsman Josh Gallagher, who will take of the driving duties from his boss, Robert Morris. Robbie will jump on the sulky behind Troy’s other runner, MY BUZZ LIGHTNING (5), whether that is a guide, we will only know the answer to that question after the race. But, back to Manly Mach and the 8yo led throughout in accounting for the consistent Master Gouda and Bettors Hope at this venue two starts ago, prior to beating Spirit Inside and Raining On Ringo at Newcastle a week ago. While both victories were convincing displays, Manly Mach won’t have everything his own way this time around. However, he is racing with confidence and that should see him produce a competitive display. EXPERIA (8) has had more chances than most, and while he hasn’t greeted the judge in nearly a year, the consistent son of Hes Watching gets his chance to pay a visit to the winner’s circle. A week ago, the 5yo had every chance in the one-one, which resulted in a creditable 8.8m 4th behind Jazzy Star. Jack Trainor will again take the reins and fresh from his hat-trick of wins in the sulky at the corresponding meeting, Trainor will present Experia with every possible chance to be first past the post. The outside gate will welcome the Darren Elder-conditioned SHANNONSTHEMAN (I1), and although the 8yo was never a factor when a 13m 7th to Hes Chiming last week, this race looks more to his liking as the winner gave nothing else a chance over the final 200m. Prior to that unplaced effort, Shannonstheman had been performing well so expect an improved effort from the son of Rocknroll Hanover. TWENTYEIGHTBLACK (6) also contested the race won in sizzling fashion by Hes Chiming with the son of Courage Under Fire posting a 15.3m eighth. The 8yo had been racing consistently prior to that run and he should be included as a contender with the young and in-form Lleyton Green taking the reins. The Tony Bertwistle-trained BANKERS GOLD (2) led and faded when a 14m 7th to Debutante Party at Goulburn last week, however, a solid trial effort at Menangle on Wednesday would indicate that the well-drawn 5yo will be far more competitive this time around. JIGAMAROO (3), GROSESTAR (4) and MY BUZZ LIGHTNING (5), which won’t have to go to ‘infinity and beyond’ to win a race of this nature, are all exotic players.
MANLY MACH 1, Experia 2, Shannonstheman 3, Twentyeightblack 4.
During the middle stages of season 2021, the Amanda Turnbull trained and driven BUNDORAN (8) swept aside his rivals on a regular basis at Headquarters and that resulted in the Bathurst visitor heading to Queensland for the winter carnival, which led to an Inter Dominion campaign. The son of Lincoln Royal managed to win at heat of the series at Newcastle, producing a strong effort in defeating Max Delight and subsequent Bendigo Cup winner Spirit Of St Louis. Never a threat in the Grand Final, which resulted in a 19.9m 9th to Boncel Benjamin, Bundoran then recorded a 19m 2nd to Fouroeight in G2 Shirley Turnbull Memorial. A week ago, the 5yo stepped out in the G3 PJ Hall with the 10 saddlecloth being a slight hindrance, as the gelding would have been eased out of the speed battle, regardless. In posting an 11.8m 8th to the exciting mare Stylish Memphis, Bundoran was never a serious factor, but he did finish the race of nicely, just the same. This will be a suitable challenge for the gelding while the extended trip of 2300m will allow him to settle into a rhythm before Amanda brings him with a late charge from the top of the straight, which was the case during his run of success last season. BAD TO THE BONE (1) crosses the Tasman once again to join Paul Fitzpatrick and with gate one a big plus, the son Bettors Delight is sound to create plenty of interest. The 5yo has won four of his seven starts at this venue and with his recent form back home being more than acceptable, especially after competing from the back row in each of his past three starts, Bad To The Bone will make his presence known. FOUROEIGHT (11) brilliantly won the G2 Shirley Turnbull, which led to trainer-driver Mat Rue heading to Victoria to contest the Bendigo Cup a week ago. The Bathurst duo were far from being disgraced in posting a creditable 13.2m 6th behind Spirit Of St Louis. The outside gate awaits Fouroeight but the 9yo can’t be dismissed as a threat and, how appropriate would it be at start 100 if the gelding, which was named in honour of the late Phil Hughes, whose Australian cricketing number was 408, could achieve such a result and ‘raise the bat’ to salute the milestone. ROYAL GAMBLE (2) has drawn ideally in two and after his solid all-the-way win of a week ago when he defeated Double Encounter and Make Mine Memphis, the Mark Callaghan-trained 7yo will again be poised to be in the mix for a long way. EGODAN (10) has drawn deep but is capable of being a threat while as well in what should be a tough and open, competitive contest.
BUNDORAN 1, Bad To The Bone 2, Fouroeight 3, Royal Gamble 4.
A week ago, the Bernie Hewitt-trained MAKE MINE MEMPHIS (7) posted a solid finishing 1.3m 3rd to Royal Gamble and had the son of Rock N Roll Heaven maintained a straight course, the result may well have been different. Driver Casey Owen later said in an interview for National Trotguide that the 6yo should have won. Taking Casey’s advice and Make Mine Memphis is worthy of respect in what looks to be an intriguing contest. The 6yo contested the opening two heats of the Inter Dominion and following a slight concern after his well-beaten 10th to King Of Swing at Bathurst, Bernie pulled the plug on heat three. Make Mine Memphis, with the benefit of a month off, returned with a 33.3m 5th to Fouroeight in the G2 Shirley Turnbull Memorial, prior to his pleasing run last week. The 2300m should suit Make Mine Memphis while the price should also be an attractive lure. PITCH PERFECT (9) has drawn wide but the Roy Roots Jnr-trained 6yo is always a consistent competitor and this race won’t be any different. Following a solid win on his home track of Newcastle, Pitch Perfect then headed across town in recording a 3.6m 2nd behind Ragnaar over 2044m of the Maitland circuit. KerryAnn Turner gave the 6yo every chance in the one-one, despite lining up on the back row, however, the bigger track will be to his liking. The Grant Dixon-trained COLT THIRTY ONE (10) will launch his claim from the outside gate as the Queenslander looks to win just his second race at Menangle and, what will be start number seven. His win was in a heat of the NSW Derby when he defeated Little Peanut and The Devils Own in February 2017. While Colt Thirty One does have the same ‘firepower’ as he once possessed, the 7yo son of Mach Three is still a keen competitor and with Robbie Morris in the sulky, the pair can’t be taken lightly. Bernie Hewitt will also have THE MUSTANG (8) going around with the popular mentor also taking the reins. Once again, like Make Mine Memphis, The Mustang caught the eye with his fast-finishing 7.6m 2nd to Art Tutor, with Casey Own also ‘singing his praises’ after the race. Fitter for two runs following a spell, the 5yo son of Changeover looks ready to greet the judge for the 14th time in his career so don’t ignore him as a threat. When forming exotic investments, the consistent UNCLE JAY (1) should be included in discussions after his recent consistent body of work while ALWAYS ROCKIN (2) and RAGNAAR (5), which are both prepared by Peter Russo, are capable of adding value to the return.
MAKE MINE MEMPHIS 1, Pitch Perfect 2, Colt Thirty One 3, The Mustang 4.
The talented Blake Fitzpatrick trained and driven WOW HES A ROCK STAR (4) looks ready to ‘hit the ground’ running when the son of Rock N Roll Heaven steps out for his first assignment since late August. On that particular occasion the 4yo posted a 14.3m 3rd to the highly-regarded Harry Martin-trained Titian Raider. Boasting five wins from his 17 starts, Wow Hes A Rock Star has trialled in fine fashion on two occasions, the latter at Headquarters on Wednesday when a head 2nd to Michelle Lee Mac, with the final 400m covered in 26.8. With the polemarker already coming out, Wow Hes A Rock Star is more than capable of being a major player from the outset. The one to beat is the in-form and race fit CHEVRON ART (3) which has also drawn perfectly in two. The son of Art Major has won three of his past four, the latest when he overcame a back row draw in taking out the Inter City Pace G3 at Maitland on Jan 2, defeating Far Out Bro and Stylish Joe in the process. Jack Brown and Jack Callaghan, respectively, have been in the sulky for Chevron Art’s past three wins and with trainer Jack Trainor taking over for this assignment, three ‘jacks’ are usually hard to beat. MIGHTY FLYING ART (5), which is also under the care of Trainor, strips fitter for a useful 9m 5th to Smooth Baht a week ago, following three months off the scene. The 6yo son of Art Major posted a moderate effort, as a $1.60 chance, behind Masons Delight at Menangle which led to his spell, however, consistent form prior should be noted in keeping Mighty Flying Art in the multiple mix. Cam Hart will take the drive and he will give the gelding every chance to be in the finish. ALLSET (9) has had three mixed efforts since changing his address from Victoria to the stables of Amanda Turnbull at Bathurst. Between two unplaced efforts, the latter a handy 9.9m 5th to Our Cowgirls N Lace at Menangle last week, Allset comfortably accounted for Saint Emilion and Rock Bottom on his new home track. Don’t write Allset off as he could be the late mover in the race. TRIPLE VC (7) is racing consistently and deserves exotic involvement while THE CROUPIER (2), courtesy of drawing ideally, also stays under notice when it comes to the multiples.
WOW HES A ROCK STAR 1, Chevron Art 2, Mighty Flying Art 3, Allset 4.
The G3 New Year’s Gift Final will highlight the card and although the Jason Grimson-trained DOUBTLESS BAY (9) has drawn deep in what looks a race overflowing with chances, the son of Bettors Delight is worthy of a ticket with his name on it. The consistent, former Victorian has had three starts since heading up the highway, the first resulting in a solid 2m 2nd to another former Victorian in Somebeachshadow, which is also trained by Grimson, prior to a determined all-the-way win at Goulburn where he accounted for Uncle Jay and Twentyeightblack. Left exposed outside of the leader in his heat last week, Doubtless Bay fought on bravely, but courtesy of a far kinder run behind the leader, and a peg run, Smooth Baht landed a confident plunge in securing a narrow win. Cam Hart will be looking to secure a suitable trip for Doubtless Bay, which will be required in a race boasting so much depth. From his past seven starts, LOCHIEL (3) has greeted the judge just once, but has been placed on the other six occasions, on more occasions than that, when right in the mix when the judge called a halt. The Amanda Turnbull trained and driven son of Lincoln Royal has drawn ideally and if the reserve doesn’t some off the bench, the pair will slot in behind number two. In qualifying for a spot in the Final, Lochiel hit the line strongly from a midfield role in posting an 8.9m 3rd to Our Cowgirls N Lace and Island Fire Dance. Trevor Munday has JAZZY STAR (2) racing in fine fashion with the Auckland Reactor 7yo winning three of his past five. Jazzy Star was untroubled in leading throughout in his heat, which saw him account for Vincent Van Gone and Marathon Man. With the draw a big plus, Blake Fitzpatrick will be keen to take full advantage of that situation in again looking to dictate from start to finish. OUR COWGIRLS N LACE (4) enjoyed a soft stalking role before easily defeating Island Fire Dance and Lochiel and with a suitable draw next to her name, the Brad Hewitt trained and driven 5yo mare is more than capable of going back-to-back. ILIKEMEBETTOR (5) had every chance given to him by Luke McCarthy last week when a costly 3.6m 3rd to Smooth Baht. Dictating the terms, the consistent 5yo drifted away from the pegs when under pressure and that didn’t help his cause. It will come as no surprise to see Ilikemebettor bounce back strongly. Now, to an interesting runner and one certainly worthy of a ‘saver’, regardless of which runner you support. Former Kiwi MARATHON MAN (8) has had two starts for Graeme Watts since crossing the Tasman and two months away from racing, and both efforts have been pleasing. The first resulted in a closing 3.4m 3rd to Twentyeightblack at Bankstown, a track which didn’t suit him, while the latter was at this venue, which does suit him, a week ago in recording a pleasing 8.7m 3rd to Jazzy Star. Speaking to Graeme before the race and he has a liking for the 5yo son of Sweet Lou. Marathon Man can only be fitter and more suited for this race by his first Menangle experience. A fitter ISLAND FIRE DANCE (10) and SMOOTH BAHT (12), which has a far more difficult gate this week, can’t be ignored as exotic players.
DOUBTLESS BAY 1, Lochiel 2, Jazzy Star 3, Our Cowgirls N Lace 4.
Small on numbers for the final three races, however, all three still look intriguing, competitive events. Brad Hewitt has another fine mare on his books in the shape of the former Kiwi DEBUTANTE PARTY (5), which has had five starts for the Goulburn, with four wins coming the way of the daughter of Bettors Delight. The 5yo completed a hat-trick of trips to the winner’s circle when she scored a gritty win at mentor Goulburn a week ago in defeating Irvine and Collina Kay Jay. The mare will be confronted by gate five, but with only five rivals that won’t be a major concern, particularly if Brad finds the role at the head of affairs. The consistent Peter Rixon-trained IM PRESI BELLE (3) has two wins and three placings to show for her six runs from a spell and with a suitable draw assisting her, the Mach Three mare will give another good account. The 4yo finished 3rd to Debutante party at Goulburn, beaten a mere 2.8m after working outside of the leader. Will Rixon takes over the driving duties from his sister Hannah and he will be hoping for better luck in giving Im Presi Belle a softer run. SMOOTH DEBATE (1) wasn’t in the mood last week when she played up in the score up and lost all chance in the process when a distant last to B K Swy. The 6yo daughter of Well Said started favourite in the race won by Debutante Party, with the Jason Grimson-trained mare dictating the terms. If, she wants to play the game this time around, then she is more than capable of making things interesting for the main selection. A newcomer to the Paul Fitzpatrick stable in former Kiwi BE MY ROSE (4) will create interest, if not for this event but moving forward. Arriving with four wins and two placings from 15 starts, the Barry and Katrina Purdon owned and bred daughter of American Ideal finished last to Old Town Road on Dec 31, when forced to compete from a back row draw. At this stage Be My Rose may need to have a look at Menangle. FASIKA (6) is worthy of attention when it comes to the multiples.
DEBUTANTE PARTY 1, Im Presi Belle 2, Smooth Debate 3, Be My Rose 4.
At 10years, veteran trotter TOUGH MONARCH (7) may have seen better days, but he is still a tough and determined character and although six rivals, all his junior, the Rickie Alchin trained and driven son of Monarchy will be looking to reign over them once again. Twenty-two of his 31 career wins have been recorded on his home track and as he prepares for start 95, it will also be his 49th trip around this venue. Tough Monarch mixed his form during the Inter Dominion series, but a gritty 4.2m 3rd to Lotofmuscle in a heat at Bathurst helped him across the line when it came to lining up in the final on Dec 11. Grinding away gamely at the end of 3009m, Tough Monarch was responsible for a brave 5.6m 4th to Maori Law, the run in keeping with some of his career highlights, despite finishing unplaced. No doubt Rickie will be keen to keep Tough Monarch out of any possible trouble from the outset and that should see the pair dictating the terms of the 2300m from the moment the green light comes on, and up until the moment the judge calls a halt. As per usual, Blake Fitzpatrick will be well represented in a trotting contest, courtesy of GIMONDI (4) and CALIGULA (6), with the latter being his preferred drive. That means that brother Gav will take the reins behind the former, which is bound to give plenty of cheek as he steps out for his for assignment since Oct 30. The consistent 5yo finished runner-up on six-consecutive occasions before spelling, then posted two placings, one of which was a 2nd in four runs last preparation. The son of Peak DNK did a fine job when an 8.6m 3rd to Funky Monkey last time out and although he hasn’t been first past the post since Nov/2020, another competitive showing can be expected. CALIGULA (6) was responsible for a couple of sound ID heat efforts, culminating with a 4.7m 3rd to Maori Law in the Newcastle assignment. Never a serious threat in the Final, the Majestic Son 6yo posted a 19.6m 10th to Maori Law. Freshened, Caligula won’t be far away when the race comes to an end. ALEPPO MURPHY (2) returns from a spell from a suitable draw and a solid trial outing has him ready to give cheek.
TOUGH MONARCH 1, Gimondi 2, Caligula 3, Aleppo Murphy 4.
Just six runners but at least could get the job done without surprising. Courtesy of drawing one, DIBABA (1) may well give her rivals the ‘short-back and sides’. Following a run of four placings, one here and the rest on the provincial circuit, the mare had a reasonable three peg run when a 22.9m 5th to Iylac Beach at Menangle on Jan 4. This will be a suitable challenge for the Jack Trainor-prepared 8yo and with the prospect of either dictating, which could be on the cards, or enjoying a soft run behind the speed, Dibaba should be pro-active in the finish. DELIGHTFUL ANGEL (5) has been thereabouts in recent assignments, the latest when a 10m 3rd to the classy Double Act at Headquarters a couple of week ago, with the winner again scoring impressively since. The small field will suit the James Rattray-trained mare which will again be driven by Charlie Castles. HIDDEN DELIGHT (3) has had the benefit of two runs back from a break, the latter a closing half-neck 3rd to Yoha and Giddy Heights at Newcastle last week. From the in-form Mark Callaghan stable, the mare has drawn nicely and with Luke McCarthy called upon to take the reins, Hidden Delight will have plenty of admirers. ISLAND BLISS (2) is another Rattray runner, with Hannah Rixon taking the reins. The Roll With Joe mare has been mixing her form, but a last-start 6m 2nd to Punt Away at Leeton, when the inside of the 2nd line came into play, was good enough to expect a cheeky display in this field.
DIBABA 1, Delightful Angel 2, Hidden Delight 3, Island Bliss 4.
– MICK KO’CASS