Ballina Jockey Club will host their eight-race showcase Ballina Cup meeting on Friday.
The course proper is a good three (3), with the rail in the true position.
The feature on the program is race seven, the $65,000 Ballina Cup, which is run over the 1590m journey.
Race One: 3 Managua – $4
Managua is never too far away for Daniel Bowen, while Brodie Loy takes the ride for connections in the 1000m Class One Handicap.
The three-year-old’s best form is on top of the ground, which he gets at Ballina, he draws to get a soft run, and on his recent runs at Grafton and Murwillumbah, he is right in this race.
Race Two: 4 Bean Groovy – $2
The Matthew Dunn-trained Bean Groovy was caught four-wide at Eagle Farm when on debut and he still managed to finish fourth, beaten only 1.4 lengths.
He draws the widest in this maiden, but there appears to be a lot of early pace and Matthew McGuren should get a chance to slot in behind them before finishing strongly.
Race Three: 5 Jimmy Giggle – $1.65
You could have shopped around for $2.20 for the Lindsay Hatch-trained jimmy Giggle when markets opened, but he’s been crunched into almost unbackable odds.
Following back-to-back thirds at Toowoomba and Ballina last year, he deserves to be favourite too.
The four-year-old draws well and Andrew Mallyon takes the ride.
Race Four: 6 Rahaan – $7.50
The Julie Pratten-trained Rahaan is a front-running stayer that is drawn to lead for Raymond Spokes in the 1900m Benchmark 66 Handicap.
There isn’t all that much speed in this race, and after a strong win over the 2013m at Coffs Harbour last start, if the six-year-old can get away with some soft sectionals in front, she will be hard to run past.
Race Five: 13 Revontulet – $6.50 (Best Value)
The Stephen Lee-trained Revontulet caught the eye on debut, finishing strongly from the back of the field to run second over six furlongs at Murwillumbah.
The extra half-furlong will suit in this 1300m Maiden, and Les Tilley will get every chance from gate four. The three-year-old should be fitter and better for the run.
Race Six: 8 Star Magnum – $7.50
The Matthew Dunn-trained Star Magnum is a proven first-up performer (4:1-2) and from the good draw and with Matthew McGuren in the saddle, he looks a nice value play for punters.
The five-year-old is capable in this grade, and this 1000m Benchmark 74 Handicap isn’t too different to some of the races he contested in Queensland.
Race Seven: 5 Spangler – $2.30 (Best Bet)
The 2023 Ballina Cup has turned out to be a good race, and while i tried to make cases for other proven performers i like in this event, I kept coming back to the Kris Lees-trained Spangler.
The lightly-raced five-year-old won in town two starts back and last start flashed late at Royal Randwick, finishing third and was beaten less than a length by Colour Sergeant over 1600m.
Spangler does draw wide, but Andrew Mallyon takes the ride and he will likely search for some early cover before finishing strongly.
For value players, Eiger ($15) and Toots Is Tops ($41) are both capable if they get their chance.
Race Eight: 7 Aquarius – $6
The 1400m Class Two Handicap has been decimated by scratchings, but of the remaining runners, there appears to be a handful that will want to go forward from the outset.
The Matthew Dunn-trained Aquarius won’t lead and could very well get a soft sit in behind the early speed battle, and I like the fact that connections are stepping up to seven furlongs.
Matthew McGuren looks to be in for a big day at Ballina and this race adds to what is a good book of rides.