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    FINDING WINNERS: Here’s the ones to follow at Menangle Saturday night FINDING WINNERS: Here’s the ones to follow at Menangle Saturday night

    THE ONE TO BEAT: Double Encounter.

    RACE ONE: Back in 1965 one of the hit movies was the Sons of Katie Elder, starring the ‘Duke’ John Wayne and Dean Martin,... FINDING WINNERS: Here’s the ones to follow at Menangle Saturday night

    RACE ONE:

    Back in 1965 one of the hit movies was the Sons of Katie Elder, starring the ‘Duke’ John Wayne and Dean Martin, two of four sons out to gain revenge for their mother’s death. Great movie if you haven’t seen it. At Menangle on Saturday night, the Elders’ will again ‘ride into town’ for the opening race, with ‘all guns ablazing’. Trainer Melanie Elder will be represented by ASHARK (3) which is owned by her mum Nicole and uncle Michael while her dad Darren and brother Brad will combine with SHANNONSTHEMAN (7). Suitably drawn in three, ASHARK is worthy of attention as the 7yo will certainly appreciate the return to a front line draw, and the bigger track, compared to his unlucky 4.4m 3rd to Ragnaar at Maitland last week. Coming from a four peg role, the son of Four Starzzz Shark hit the line with intent. Three runs back on October 30, Ashark carried a flat tyre in overcoming the role outside of the leader in proving too tough and too good in sharing the top spot with Rossini. A sound 10.3m 8th to Summit Special followed when the 7yo contested the race from a three peg role. The prospect of contesting this race from a suitable stalking role, will suit Ashark. SHANNONSTHEMAN is a reliable type which has the gate speed to be prominent from the outset. Despite his consistency and willingness to compete, surprisingly, the 8yo has managed just one win at Headquarters from his 23 attempts, with five minor placings also coming his way. The Rocknroll Heaven gelding also contested the Maitland race won by Ragnaar, and like Ashark, Shannonstheman drew the second row in posting a creditable 10.9m 4th, with his work over the final stages more than pleasing. Courtesy of the pole draw, HOT N GOLD (1) is bound to receive a suitable draw which will assist the Belinda McCarthy-trained mare in her bid for a successful trip. Following a win at Newcastle, the 6yo then drew the inside of the back row at Penrith, which resulted in a solid 4.9m 3rd behind Dibaba. In what appears to be an open and tough race, Hot N Gold is certainly a threat. Despite drawing wide, the Jarrod Alchin-trained DELIGHTFUL DUDE (9) can’t be taken lightly with Cam Hart returning to the sulky after David Morris guided the talented 4yo to an all-the-way win at Penrith just prior to Christmas. A watch is placed on the Lester Hewitt-conditioned HES CHIMING (6), which resumes on the back of two Bathurst trials, the first a solid 2nd while the latter was a convincing 34.8m win in 1:55.0. The sparingly-raced 7yo son of Betterthancheddar has faced the starter on mere 20 occasions, but he boasts a 50% winning strike rate and seven minor placings. When forming multiple transactions, the well-drawn TWENTYEIGHTBLACK (2) can’t be ignored while GROSESTAR (5) could throw plenty of value into the mix.

     ASHARK 1, Shannonstheman 2, Hot N Gold 3, Delightful Dude 4.

     RACE TWO:

    Despite the presence of a wide gate, last-start Menangle winner SOMEBEACHSHADOW (9) remains the one to beat. The former Victorian debuted for the Jason Grimson stable back on December 18, following a more than useful career south of the border, with the 8yo leading from start to finish in defeating Doubtless Bay, which has won since, and Alpine Stride, which went around in the Inter Dominion series and eventually the consolation which resulted in a career best effort in finishing a close 3rd to Pocket Of Terror. The son of Somebeachsomewhere drew three when last seen in action, and although a wider gate awaits, Cam hart is bound to have him in the mix from the outset. The consistent MIGHTY LOOEE (8) scored at Headquarters six runs back, and although he hasn’t finished further back then fifth in five subsequent appearances, the son of Sweet Lou has been costly in some of those commitments. Runner-up in three of those outings, the latest when beaten 2.7m by his stablemate Muscle Factory, Mighty Looee is coming off a typical honest effort in finishing a 7.4m 4th to Jimmy Locke. That form can’t be ignored in a race of this nature. ZIGGY ROCKS (10) has an awkward draw to overcome and while his form has been mixed, the 6yo is more than capable of being involved in the finish. The son of Pet Rock scored here five starts ago, and has had mixed luck since, so don’t rule him out. ALWAYS ROCKIN (2) will start from the pole if the reserve doesn’t come off the bench, and although safely held in each of his past two, the latter being a 15.8m 5th to Somebeachshadow, the 8yo could assist as an exotic player. RAGNAAR (11), along with Always Rockin, is prepared by Peter Russo, who has the 6yo racing in fine fashion, with wins in three of his past five engagements. The latest was at Maitland a week ago when the son of Bettors Delight was driven a treat by Tom Ison, which enabled him to defeat Pitch Perfect and Ashark. This will be a tougher task for the entire, and the outside gate will welcome him at the start, but it is hard to dismiss winning form. FIRESTORM RED (7) is coming off a gritty win in the Parkes Gold Cup when Mitch Turnbull produced a superb effort in the sulky. The pair face a harder challenge this time, but the Steve Turnbull-trained 6yo remains in the multiple mix.

     SOMEBEACHSHADOW 1, Mighty Looee 2, Ziggy Rocks 3, Always Rockin 4.

     RACE THREE:

    An interesting changes of stables applies to CLOUD NINE (5) as the former Jason Grimson-trained son of Bettors Delight now under the care of dual Miracle Mile winning mentor Belinda McCarthy. The 5yo has been a model of consistency during the second-half of the 2021 season, posting four-consecutive wins and a host of runner-up roles. Cloud Nine has been off the scene since early November when a 2.5m 4th, as favourite, in the race won by his now stablemate, Muscle Factory. Boasting gate speed, the gelding has drawn five, but he should be able to be in the thick of the action from the outset. Despite lacking the same ‘match fitness’ as some of his main rivals, Cloud Nine is worth the gamble as Belinda is bound to have him ready to ‘hit the ground running’. With gate one next to her name the Brad Hewitt trained and driven OUR COWGIRLS N LACE (1) is poised to give a good account. The former Kiwi mare opened her career on this side of the Tasman with a hat-trick of wins but has managed just two placings from her next five starts, although she was confronted by harder assignments. The 5yo mare is coming off a solid finishing 5.8m 2nd behind Jazzy Star on Dec 18, when a wide draw resulted in a rearward role coming her way. Our Cowgirls N Lace will enjoy a better trip this time and she is capable of rounding up her opposition, en route to greeting the judge. ISLAND FIRE DANCE (8) may well hold the key to the race, despite drawing the outside gate in the field eight. After resuming with back-to-back stylish wins at this venue back in early July, the filly, now mare, was sent north to contest the Queensland Oaks on July 24, but the daughter of A Rocknoll Dance found plenty of trouble and was retired from the race, which was taken out by Momentslikethese. Island Fire Dance resumed with a costly 9.5m 5th (six runners) behind Give Me A Minute on Dec 18, when she led out before taking a sit. There is no doubt the Island Fire Dance has the talent to make a bold bid for the top spot. The winning chances don’t stop there as the Amanda Turnbull trained and driven LOCHIEL (4) is also racing with plenty of confidence. Following a deserving win here three starts ago, the 5yo posted a 13.5m 3rd to Ilikemebettor, as favourite, in the Christmas Gift Final at Headquarters on Dec 18, prior to a fast-finishing 1.2m 2nd to Smooth Baht at Bathurst. Handily drawn in four, Lochiel will be looking to take cover before charging late. Last-start Bathurst winner ALLSET (2) has drawn ideally and as a result the 5yo son of Elsu warrants exotic attention, along with a fitter TOTAL DIVA (3).

     CLOUD NINE 1, Our Cowgirls N Lace 2, Island Fire Dance 3, Lochiel 4.

     RACE FOUR:

    This event looks a suitable challenge for DOUBLE ENCOUNTER (6) which will be looking to improve just one spot on his two previous solid displays. Prepared by Harry Martin and to be driven by David Morris, the 165-start veteran had the race in his keeping two starts ago, only to suffer a gear issue which hindered his prospects over the final 400m, which allowed Jimmy Locke to snatch victory away from the son of Village Jasper. Contesting a harder race on Dec 18, Double Encounter battled on gamely in finishing a closing 2nd to Mach Dan, which had previously finished a nose 2nd to Pocket Of Terror in the Inter Dominion consolation. Mach Dan then went on to finish 3rd behind Fouroeight and Bundoran in the G2 Shirley Turnbull Memorial. Morris is bound to waste little time in having Double Encounter making his presence felt, prior to posting a deserving win. ROYAL GAMBLE (7) is definitely worth a ‘saver’ as the Mark Callaghan-trained 7yo will enjoy the drop in grade after contesting the ID series, which culminated with a gallant 6m 5th to Pocket Of Terror in the consolation. Prior to heading into the series, the 7yo posted a couple of solid placings, the latter a 5m 3rd to Bright Energy. The son of Bettors Delight will find this encounter to his liking, with the small field also being a bonus. RANGER BOMB (8) draws the outside gate, and although his recent form has been mixed, the 5yo is capable of being a threat. MAKE MINE MEMPHIS (4) has been safely held of late but don’t dismiss from exotic investments while ELLMERS IMAGE (1) and ATOMIC RED (3) are also capable of far better efforts, compared to recent displays.

     DOUBLE ENCOUNTER 1, Royal Gamble 2, Ranger Bomb 3, Make  Mine Memphis 4.

     RACE FIVE:

    The running of the G3 Perc Hall sees the return to Headquarters of the star New Zealand mare STYLISH MEMPHIS (3). Under the care of Jack Trainor, who has again taken over the mare’s training routine, the daughter of Bettors Delight won the G1 Ladyship Mile, Stylish Memphis was far from disgraced when a 10.4m 6th to King Of Swing in the Miracle Mile. After a deserving break from racing, Stylish Memphis returned to racing in September, with a second-up outing resulting in a 2nd to Darling Me at Addington. The mare was back in the winner’s circle a couple of  months later, prior to a couple of unplaced but creditable efforts in mid-December. For her upcoming challenge, Stylish Memphis will face the started from gate three and that should assist Trainor in his quest to have the classy 5yo in a challenging role from the outset. If vulnerable at this stage of her campaign, then the in-form MUSCLE FACTORY (7) will take a power of beating as the Belinda McCarthy-conditioned 6yo looks to stretch his winning sequence to four. The son of Roll With Joe has always been an exciting talent and his recent burst of winning form would suggest he has returned to his outstanding juvenile days. Muscle Factory followed a sizzling 1:49.4 win with a comfortable 2300m victory over Mighty Looee and Summit Special. This will be an interesting test for Muscle Factory. Ideally drawn in one is EGODAN (1) which will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 36.3m 6th to Fouroeight in the G2 Shirley Turnbull at Bathurst on Boxing Day. Prior to that display the 10yo had posted a determined 2nd to the classy Jay OK, prior to accounting for Burnham Boy and Bright Energy. A stalking role from the good draw will assist Egodan in making a play for a role in the finish. BUNDORAN (11) has drawn the outside gate but the 5yo would probably ease out of the early speed battle, regardless. Best served when able to ‘swoop’ late, with that particular game plan working on a number of occasions at this particular venue, Bundoran won a heat of the ID at Newcastle before posting a 19.9m 9th to Boncel Benjamin in the Final. The son of Lincoln Royal has since contested the G2 Shirley Turnbull, finishing a respectable 19m 2nd to Fouroeight. Watch for him coming with a rush over the final 300m. MACH DA VINCI (6) did a fine job during the ID carnival with the Peter Hanson-trained son of Art Major posting a gritty 8.8m 8th to Pocket Of Terror in the consolation. Expect the 5yo to be competitive while APHORISM (5) stays in the mix as an exotic contender.

     STYLISH MEMPHIS 1, Muscle Factory 2, Egodan 3, Bundoran 4.

     RACE SIX:

    Now four runs into her latest term of racing, this time under the care of Jack Trainer, quality mare JENDEN STRIKE (7) needs to show a return to form, and hopefully that will be winning form. Formerly with Chris Frisby, the mare headed to Trainor after a spell which followed a well-beaten last to Tommy Lincoln at Albion Park back on July 9. Two safely held efforts back in November had Jenden Strike building towards peak fitness and, despite tackling a tougher contest on Dec 4, the mare indicated she was on the way back with a closing 1.6m 4th to Jay OK. However, the daughter of Betterthancheddar disappointed a week later, as a $1.50 chance, when she worked to the lead and appeared to have every chance when a fading 10.5m 6th to Our Money Rocks. Trainor has booked the in-form David Morris for the drive as Jack will partner B K SWY (8) and that is probably a good guide, although the latter can be a problem on the odd occasion. Gate one will boost the winning prospects of SMOOTH DEBATE (1), although the mare did draw well at Goulburn last week when she led, en route to a 3.2m 4th to Debutante Party. The Well Said mare did lead from start to finish in defeating Dibaba and Itzamajor Surprise a month ago and if the 6yo can bring that form to this race, then she is more than capable of leaving the track on a winning note. B K SWY (8) has been mixing her form of late, with a fast-finishing 3.5m 2nd to Diamond Party a true indication of her ability. However, the daughter of Big Jim wasn’t in the mood at Menangle on Dec 18 when she didn’t want to score-up, resulting in a distant last to Fairy Tinkabell when she took no part in the contest. If B K Swy heads around to the start ‘focused’ on the job at hand, then she will be right in the mix with the smaller field also a plus. OUR ROAD TO MECCA (4) had little trouble winning at Newcastle last time out, despite having broken gear in leading throughout. The mare has always been a fine talent so expect the 6yo Art Major mare to give a good account. BETTOR ROBYN (5) has been off her game of late, but the mare hasn’t had a great deal go her way just the same and a better showing, particularly when it comes to the multiples, wouldn’t come as a surprise.

     JENDEN STRIKE 1, Smooth Debate 2, B K Swy 3, Our Road To Mecca 4.

     RACE SEVEN:

    The Jason Grimson-trained DOUBTLESS BAY (5) appears to be one of the more appealing investments on the card. The former Victorian debuted for the stable with a determined 2m 2nd to stablemate Somebeachshadow on Dec 18, then led in proving too good for Uncle Jay and Twentyeightblack at Goulburn on Jan 2. The talented son of Bettors Delight will have his third driver in as many starts since heading north as Cam Hart will jump into the sulky after Will Rixon and Grimson, respectively, partnered the gelding. Whether Cam can find the lead, which will be option number one, may well be determined on the pole marker ILIKEMEBETTOR (1) and his driver, Luke McCarthy. Despite drawing the outside gate last time out, Ilikemebettor had little trouble crossing the face of the field and finding the marker pegs, with Jack Callaghan then rating the 5yo to perfection in defeating Louis Litt and Lochiel by a big margin in the G3 Christmas Gift Final. The son of Bettors Delight has now had four runs back and his level of fitness will be ‘cherry ripe’ for this challenge. SMOOTH BAHT (2) scored at Bathurst two starts ago defeating Lochiel and Firestorm Red, then worked from a back row draw in recording a gritty 2nd to Firestorm Red in the Parkes Gold Cup. The draw will assist the 5yo in his quest to again be involved in the finish, although this will be a slightly harder challenge. JERULAS GRIN (3) returned to racing with a determined 1.7m 2nd to Twentyeightblack at Bankstown on Dec 27, with the 5yo hitting the line in fine fashion in coming from a rearward role, courtesy of a 2nd row draw. Fitter and far more suitably drawn, Jerulas Grin is capable of bringing a smile to the face of his supporters. Multiple players should consider FEAR CRUISIN (70, which had been racing well before his prior start, and MIGHTY FLYING ART (4) which returns from a spell following a disappointing end to his previous term of racing.

     DOUBTLESS BAY 1, Ilikemebettor 2, Smooth Baht 3, Jerulas Grin 4.

     RACE EIGHT:

    The last appears to be a tough and open contest but the Trevor Munday-trained JAZZY STAR (3) is favoured to make it back-to-back wins at Headquarters. Despite drawing the outside gate, which left him three wide before occupying the role outside of the leader, Jazzy Star still proved too good for Our Cowgirls N Lace and Ronaldo back on Dec 18. This time around Blake Fitzpatrick will take the son of Auckland Reactor up to gate three and that should result in the pair attempting to stamp their authority on the race from the outset. VINCENT VAN GONE (2) had been racing well before tiring badly when a well-beaten last behind Better Eclipse in the G2 Carousel Final on Inter Dominion night. The son of Sportswriter will be better suited by this contest and the draw is also favourable so expect a far more competitive showing. Former Kiwi MARATHON MAN (1) is the interesting runner with the son of Sweet Lou stepping out for his second assignment since coming under the care of Graeme Watts. With more ‘watts’ involved in the ownership than you would find in a lighting store, Marathon Man had three trials, nothing ‘flash’ before recording a pleasing 3.4m 3rd to Twentyeightblack at Bankstown on Dec 27. Drawing the back row and racing in a rearward role, the 5yo was certainly working to the line nicely. The bigger Menangle circuit will suit Marathon Man while gate one is also an added plus. PACMAN HANOVER (5) has either won or finished 9th from his past four starts, making him harder to follow than a shopping trolley with a ‘wonky’ wheel. However, if the son of Courage Under Fire finds the top and does his best, then he would prove hard to catch. MISTER MAGIC MAN (7) was responsible for a tough all-the-way win at this venue on Tuesday, with the Joe Conolly-trained 9yo taking full advantage of a well-judged drive by 16yo Bryson Grima. Chris Geary will take over the reins for this challenge, and although the son of Mister Big will be confronted by a tougher test, he is capable of giving plenty of cheek. That leaves VOUCHERS (4) as a possible value exotic player.

     JAZZY STAR 1, Vincent Van Gone 2, Marathon Man 3, Pacman Hammer 4.

     – TIPS BY MIKE KO’CASS

     

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