January 11, 2024 Michael Court
Quality 4yo ROCKOKOKO (1) has the ideal opportunity to go one better on his latest effort after drawing the pole position. Prepared by Luke McCarthy, who will also handle the driving duties, the son of American Ideal returned from a Queensland campaign with a strong finishing win at Menangle, then missed by a narrow margin in finishing 2nd to Neptune, which came out and won a heat of the New Year’s Gift a week ago. Apart from the draw, Rokokoko will also boast a higher level of fitness and that combination should be enough to see him home, possibility on the back of an all-the-way performance. ARDENS DELIGHT (2) has also drawn perfectly for trainer-driver, Jack Trainor. The consistent daughter of Bettors Delight posted a game 12.5m 2nd to Hesashadowplaya in the Merv Adams Memorial at Penrith recently after working, then drew wide at this venue, resulting in a midfield role when a grinding 5.7m 4th behind Our Cosmic Major in a heat of the New Year’s Gift. The far better draw is a bonus for the consistent 6yo mare so expect to see her being involved in the finish. The Bailey McDonough trained and driven CELESTIAL GOSSIP (3) will also enjoy gate three and that will enhance his claims of being prominently placed from the outset. Crossing from gate eight in his most recent outing a few weeks ago, the 9yo led in defeating Freddy Singh and Carlo Gambino. While this will be a tougher test for the son of Tell All, the 150-start veteran has never been short of talent so expect a bold showing. RICKOSHAY (7) continues to be thereabouts, without being a serious threat, but the Blake Fitzpatrick-trained 6yo hasn’t had a great deal go his way just the same. One-one, then three wide without cover, the 6yo is coming off a useful 10.9m 7th to Neptune a week ago. At least include Rickoshay when it comes to forming multiple combinations. OUR SUNSET DELIGHT (6) ended a Queensland campaign with a well-beaten 7th to The Lost Storm at AP on July 15, prior to spelling on his return. The 4yo son of Art Major has been successful in both runs back, firstly at Dubbo before accounting for Huta and Twilight Bonnie at Bathurst. This will be a tougher test for the Anthony Frisby-trained and driven gelding but claims as an exot8ic runner can’t be ignored.
ROCKOKOKO 1, Ardens Delight 2, Celestial Gossip 3, Rickoshay 4.
Hitting peak fitness following four runs back, the KerryAnn Morris-trained LAST TANGO IN HEAVEN (4) appeals as a worthy investment in an open contest where there appears to be at least five definite contenders for the top spot. Following a couple of handy efforts to ‘kick-start’ his latest term of racing, the latter resulting in a pleasing 7.4m 7th to Bondi Lockdown, the 6yo then led when a half-head 2nd to King tiger at Newcastle before heading back to Headquarters for his latest outing a week ago. From a midfield role Last Tango In Heaven hit the line with intent, resulting in a half-neck 4th behind Wow Hes A Rock Star. Handily drawn, Last Tango In Heaven will be competitive. ROLL UP (6) will appreciate returning to a race of this nature after competing in stronger events. The Luke McCarthy-conditioned ROLL UP (6) was unplaced in recent events won by Our Money Rocks, which performed with distinction during the Inter Dominion carnival, Petes Said So and Hi Manameisjeff, posting handy efforts each time. Always prominently placed when a solid 3.4m 2nd to Whereyabinboppin, Roll Up has since recorded a 19m 7th to Star Major over this course and distance when in a rearward peg role and held up for a suitable run at a vital stage. That form is more than useful for this contest. Also expect a far better display from FIRESTORM RED (8) as the 8yo will appreciate returning to a suitable challenge. After greeting the judge on back-to-back occasions at Headquarters, the Jarrod Alchin-conditioned 8yo has been unplaced in his next five encounters, but the winners have been Max Delight, which has won two Cups since, Taipo, Cya Art in the Shirley Turnbull Memorial and Hi Manameisjeff. Lucas Rando, who is driving with plenty of confidence, has been booked to take the reins and over the longer trip of 2300m, Firestorm Red is capable of being involved in the finish so don’t write him off. BOOM (9) has drawn the outside gate, however, the James Rattray trained and driven 7yo remains a threat. The son of Alta Christiano led when a determined 1.5m 4th to unfazed before leading out, then taking a sit, when a gritty 2.7m 5th to Wow Hes A Rock Star a week ago. The draw may result in Boom settling further back but expect him to be hitting the line hard. TOTAL DIVA (2) returns from a spell, with the talented Peter Hanson-trained daughter of Terror To Love drawing nicely in two. Heading to the paddock following a 10.8m 7th to Braeview Kelly in the Frith Stakes at Menangle on October 7, Total Diva posted a solid 2nd to Zeuss Bromac in a recent Menangle trial, indicating that she was ready for a bold first-up effort. WAVETHEBILL (5) a stablemate to Last Tango In Heaven, strips fitter following a 12.7m 3rd to Hezashadowplaya in the Merv Adams Memorial at Penrith. Although the 6yo had a moderate ending to his previous term of racing, a fitter son of Net Ten Eom is worthy of exotic involvement.
LAST TANGO IN HEAVEN 1, Roll Up 2, Firestorm Red 3, Boom 4.
Despite the presence of the outside gate MACH DA VINCI (11) is entitled to be looked upon as the one to beat. Racing in career best form, which has resulted in a personal best time of 1:49.9 in scoring four runs ago, the Peter Hanson-trained son of Art Major has been game in defeat in each of his past two completed assignments. Following his defeat of The Croupier and Wow Hes A Rockstar, both recent Menangle winners, Mach Da Vinci recorded a solid 2.6m 3rd to Taipo and Magician before striking trouble in the opening stages of the Shirley Turnbull Memorial at Bathurst and being forced to retire. The feature event on Boxing Day going the way of Cya Art. Back to Menangle for his latest assignment a week ago and Mach Da Vinci again worked home with intent, resulting in a 9.7m 3rd to the current ‘boom’ runner in Hi Manameisjeff with South Coast Arden splitting the pair. Jack Callaghan will again partner the 7yo, and courtesy of the draw, is likely to allow Mach Da Vinci to settle off the speed, allowing the entire to power down the Menangle straight when the money is up for grabs. With the benefit of three runs since resuming, MAGICIAN (6) should be ready to be involved in the finish. The former Tasmanian created a big impression with his gallant 15.4m 4th to Encipher in the $2m Eureka back on September 2, prior to continuing his career under the guidance of James Rattray, who took over the duties from his brother Todd. First-up following three months off, and the 5yo produced a game 1.9m 2nd to Taipo after racing without cover, prior to again drawing the outside gate when a determined 5m 5th to Braeview Kelly. Confronted by gate nine for his assignment here a week ago, Magician went back at the star, resulting in a six peg role coming his way before being three back in the running line approaching the home turn. With Hi Manameisjeff again proving superior, Magician worked home steady in posting a 12.2m sixth. The son of Sweet Lou has an improved draw for this challenge and that will assist James providing Magician with, hopefully, a kinder run and sufficient energy for a final assault. LINE UP (2) has had his fair share of issues but the sparingly-raced 7yo caught the eye with his return to racing a week ago. Now under the care of Joe and Mary Rando, the son of Bettors Delight drew the outside gate for his first assignment since last August, resulting in Will Rixon allowing him to settle in a rearward role. From the top of the home straight and down the length of the long Menangle stretch, Line Up continued to hit the line with plenty of determination, resulting in an excellent half-head 2nd to Wow Hes A Rockstar. Fitter and drawing the pole, with the reserve out, Line Up will be looking to secure his first win since February/2022. Placed third in four of his past six starts, ALTA ORLANDO (8) is coming off another gritty display when beaten a head by Wow Hes A Rockstar last week after attempting an all-the-way win. The 12yo is finding it difficult to secure the top spot in recent months, but the son of Courage Under Fire is rarely far away when the judge calls a halt. ZEUSS BROMAC (9) steps out for his first challenge since a disappointing 31.3m 7th to Swayzee at Menangle on October 29. Prior to that display the Paul Fitzpatrick-trained son of Bettors Delight had been consistently involved in the mix. A recent solid trial win has Zeuss Bromac ready to again be a serious player. BONDI LOCKDOWN (10) returned from a spell with a solid display in defeating Braedos Lad and Alta Orlando before striking some interference at the start, then being left without cover, in recording an 11m 5th to Hi Manameisjeff at Menangle last week. The Luke McCarthy-conditioned 6yo has a wide gate to overcome, but the son of Somebeachsomewhere is always up to the challenge.
MACH DA VINCI 1, Magician 2, Line Up 3, Alta Orlando 4.
After recording his first win in this side of the Tasman and his sixth overall, former Kiwi CYA ART (9) will be looking to add to his list to credits, despite drawing the outside gate in the field of nine. Coming under the care of Jason Grimson while still based at home, Cya Art recorded a gallant 2nd to Don’t Stop Dreaming at Addington in November before crossing the ‘ditch’ and posting a costly but solid head to Max Delight in the Cherry City Cup at Young, then again filling that role, this time behind Unfazed at Menangle on December 16 when he worked home strongly from a midfield role. The Art Major 6yo finally went one better in the Shirley Turnbull Memorial at Bathurst when he was able to dictate the terms, courtesy of Jack Brown, in comfortably defeating Taipo and Star Major. While the wide is a concern, Cya Art has the necessary ability to overcome such a hurdle and continue on his winning way. UNFAZED (7) was game in defeat here last week in recording a 4m 3rd to The Croupier. The 7yo son of Auckland Reactor was able to greet the judge two starts back when he accounted for Cya Art and Ardens Ace so he will tackle this event with his usual determined manner. STINGRAY TARA (6) scored in fine fashion five starts ago, and has been in the mix in three of his subsequent four starts. A member of the Blake Fitzpatrick team, the 8yo caught the eye last week when he came from a five peg role in posting a solid 5.6m 4th to The Croupier. With Blake on the sidelines, Lleyton Green will again handle the driving duties and with a better draw assisting his claims, Stingray Tara can’t be ignored as a potential threat. DENIS WILLIAM (5) won first-up for Jason Grimson when he powered home from a midfield role in defeating Braedos Lad and Joe Nien when having his first outing in four months. Facing the starter for the Brian Hancock FFA a couple of weeks later and the challenge proved beyond him as the 7yo recorded a 17m last to Taipo. Returning to an easier assignment and from a reasonable starting position, Denis William is capable of again being involved in the outcome. Exotic players should also consider the consistent JOE NIEN (1), especially after drawing the pole, BRAEDOS LAD (3) and JANARTY (4).
CYA ART 1, Unfazed 2, Stingray Tara 3, Denis William 4.
The draw for the New Year’s Gift Final has presented a few of the main players with every chance to secure the major share of the prizemoney while hindering the claims of one. The Jason Grimson (a.k.a Grimmo)-trained MAJOR MAJOR (2) has drawn ideally in gate two and with a hat-trick of wins next to his name, the Art Major gelding is entitled to top billing. Following a narrow win over Im In Trouble and Our Uncle Jim, the 5yo recorded an impressive win over My Ultimate Carter and Don Lou and, in the process stopped the clocked at 1:49.8, a career best performance. Major Major enjoyed a similar stalking role behind the leader in his heat of this event, and although the margin was just over a metre, he hit the line gamely in defeating the highly-regarded Rocknroll Hammer while magic Matteo filled third spot. Jack Brown will again have the opportunity to present Major Major with a similar kind run behind the speed before allowing him to lengthen stride when the serious end of proceedings is under way. Luke McCarthy has qualified two quality types in OUR COSMIC MAJOR (11) and ROCKNROLL HAMMER (4), with Luke’s choice to provide some assistance. OUR COSMIC MAJOR (11) has contested a dozen races to date with the lightly-raced 5yo greeting the judge on seven occasions while finishing second four time and third once. Prior to a spell, the son of Art major won the Carousel at Menangle, narrowly, over Janarty and Our Uncle Jim. The gelding resumed with an eye-catching neck 2nd to Rakadan before leading from ‘start to finish’ in taking out his heat last week over Stravinsky and Sir Richard Lee. Peaking in condition, which will help off-set the wide gate, Our Cosmic Major will have options and either way, he does loom as a serious player. ROCKNROLL HAMMER (4) also boasts a fine record as six and five placings appear next to his name from 15 trips to the races. Contesting his first race since a respectable Queensland campaign, which culminated in a 23m 5th to The Lost Storm in the Queensland Derby on July 22, Rocknroll Hammer led when a brave 1.2m 2nd to Major Major. Fitter and drawing suitably, Rocknroll Hammer is more than capable of nailing down another win. NEPTUNE (1) has recorded a hat-trick of wins since resuming from a spell and has drawn ideally in gate one. In taking out his heat the KerryAnn Morris-trained son of Bettors Delight was rated to perfection by Robbie, which paved the way for a solid win over a game Theresa Love with Gimmie A Reason being the next to cross the line. This will be a harder task but Neptune is capable of making his presence felt. THERESA LOVE (7) is always thereabouts and there was merit in her 1.6m effort behind Neptune, but the daughter of Terror To Love will be confronted by a harder task. Claims as an exotic runner should be noted while STRAVINSKY (10), despite the draw, is also a suitable runner to find a spot for in multiple transactions.
MAJOR MAJOR 1, Our Cosmic Major 2, Rocknroll Hammer 3, Neptune 4.
Contesting a similar race to last week, KING OF LOVE (3) will again face the starter as the one to beat. The talented Joe Conolly-trained son of Love You has his quirks, but, when focused on the task at hand, the gelding has plenty of talent. After breaking at the start, then making up many metres in finishing an 11m 4th to The Night King at Penrith, King Of Love appreciated the return to the spacious Menangle circuit and after finding the lead in the early stages, the ground work had been done for another winning display. With Seaton Grima in the sulky, King Of Love as never in danger of defeat as he coasted home by 3.5m over Affaire de cover while Monarch Stride was a further 1.6m astern. From gate three Seaton will again allow King Of Love to settle into his work before stamping his authority on his rivals. And, against similar opposition, the end result should be the same. HAVE NO FEAR (4) has been winning every second start of late and if that trend continues, the 6yo will be back in the top spot. The Father Patrick gelding has won two stand events recently while finishing fourth in a couple of mobile events, so his preference is definitely events when the strands come into play. Following his latest win, Have No Fear contested his latest assignment from a midfield role before working home steadily, without threatening, in finishing a 7.4m 4th to King Of Love. The Joe and Mary Rando-trained Have No fear will start from gate four, a couple of spots closer to the pegs, compared to last week, and, if he does everything right, then Have No fear is capable of giving King Of Love a race. MONARCH STRIDE (1), which is also prepared by Joe and Mary, tried hard in finishing a 5m 3rd to King Of Love after enjoying a cosy, three peg role. From the same draw, gate one, Lucas Rando will again be looking to secure a similar comfortable run for the son of Muscle Hill. AFFAIRE DE COVER (2) has been consistent of late and is coming off a solid effort last week when he recorded a closing 3.5m 2nd to King Of Love. The draw is again favourable so expect Affaire De Cover to be in the mix once again. When it comes to the multiples, SUNNY GEE (5), ONE MAJIC KENNY (6), which you take on trust, and RED HARBOUR (), which is also hard to follow, but did win well here on Tuesday, have claims as exotic contenders.
KING OF LOVE 1, Have No Fear 2, Monarch Stride 3, Affaire De Cover 4.
Although there is little to zero winning form of late to go on, this does appear to be a suitable assignment for the Ash Delosa-conditioned OUR UNCLE JIM (8). The 8yo son of Western Terror has drawn the outside gate in the field on eight, but to off-set that setback, Our Uncle Jim does drop back to a far more comfortable assignment. A winner at this venue on October 21, when he finished over the top of Lightning Dan and Theresa Love, the 8yo has contested a further eight races for two placings, both in collecting third spot, the latest when beaten 9.7m by Major Major, which has won twice since. Contesting a heat of the New Year’s Gift last week, Our Uncle Jim recorded a handy 10.3m 8th to Our Cosmic Major. Chris Geary will again takes the reins and in this easier challenge may endeavour to have Our Uncle Jim in a more forward role, avoiding the prospect of being caught up in traffic. MARATHON MAN (4) also contested the same heat as Our Uncle Jim and his effort was also pleasing. Unplaced in three previous runs since resuming from a spell, and for new mentor James Rattray, the 7yo worked home steadily in recording a 6.2m 5th behind Our Cosmic Major after enjoying a four peg role. Marathon Man hasn’t won since February 2022, but the son of Sweet Lou is worthy of consideration. The booking of Cam Hart is significant when it comes to the chances of the Darren Binskin-trained SHEFFIELD SPARKY (2). Also looking to break a run of outs, Sheffield Sparky worked home stoutly in posting a useful 10.3m 6th to Neptune last week. The 8yo son of Art Major has been thereabouts, without being a serious threat of late and from his good draw, the gelding will be looking to settle closer to the lead and make his presence felt when the judge calls a halt. CHASING THE WIND (1) drew the back row at Penrith when held up in finishing a 10.8m 8th to Freddy Singh. Like his opponents the Steph Morris trained and driven son of Fly Like An Eagle should find this a useful challenge in the hope of returning to winning form. Gate one is certainly a big plus. SOHO RHAPSODY (6) has been safely held in both her engagements since resuming, the latter resulting in a 13m 9th to Neptune last week. The Rickie Alchin trained and driven 5yo mare strips fitter and if she can find something like her form when last in work, then expect the daughter of American Ideal to test this field. Darren Binskin has elected to drive TUPPENCE (7) and that decision must be considered when assessing the claims of the son of Lincoln Royal. The 6yo, despite finishing unplaced in his past nine engagements, Tuppence hasn’t been far away on a number of occasions, including his latest effort a week ago which resulted in an 11.5m last to Wow Hes A Rock Star. The drop back in grade will also assist Tuppence.
OUR UNCLE JIM 1, Marathon man 2, Sheffield Sparky 3, Chasing The Wind 4.
Former Kiwi ILLAVABUBBLES (7) will create interest when she steps out for the first time under the care of Jason Grimson, her third trainer since crossing the Tasman. Following five starts for Jack Butler in 2023, which resulted in a couple of wins and two placings, the daughter of Always B Miki then had one run for Darrel Graham a week ago, two months after her previous outing. Caught facing the breeze, the mare compounded to finish a 13.8m 7th to Sweet Miracle at AP. The 5yo has drawn a touch wide in what appears to be an open and competitive race, but the stable must be respected and of course, Cam Hart is in the sulky, and that is always an added bonus. With the benefit of two runs back from a spell, REACTOR FACTOR (9) should be ready to produce a strong showing. Resuming with an unlucky 3.8m 3rd to Never Know Charlie at Maitland when the 7yo cleared a pocket late, but too late, after being three pegs from his second row draw. At Menangle on Tuesday, the son of Auckland Reactor was again locked away in a three peg role, prior to working home steadily for a 7.3m 5th to Watchmedazzle. The KerryAnn Morris-trained gelding has drawn deep but he looks ready to run a bold race. Chloe Formosa will again partner Reactor Factor. WARATAH LOU (10) will launch his claim from the outside gate but the Luke McCarthy trained and driven son of Sweet Lou remains a threat. Following a run of consistency the 4yo is coming off a moderate 40.9m last to Bologna at Penrith back on December 21. Back in October Waratah Lou finished a determined 13.4m 2nd to Captains Knock in the NSWBC 3YO C&G’s Final. Waratah Lou must be forgiven for his recent effort. MY STELLA ROSE (5) recorded a gritty 10.4m 4th to Roll With Sloy in the NSWBC Eastern 3YO Fillies Final before finishing runner-up at Penrith and Newcastle, respectively, the latter when outside the leader when beaten 2.5m by Gandalf. The 4yo mare is capable of again playing a role in the finish. LOORRIM CREEK (3) is coming off a sound 6.6m 4h to Watchmedazzle on Tuesday and from his handy draw, the 11yo isn’t without claims so don’t write him off.
ILLVABUBBLES 1, Reactor Factor 2, Waratah Lou 3, My Stella Rose 4.
– FORM ASSESSED BY MIKE KO’CASS