Belflyer to be honoured with Grafton feature race

Grafton trainer John Shelton with 2018 Kosciuszko winner Belflyer, who has retired from racing.

Champion galloper Belflyer will be honoured during the Grafton July carnival, with a Prelude and Feature Race named in his honour. 

The Bel Esprit gelding, which won the inaugural Kosciuszko in 2018 for trainer John Shelton and jockey Adam Hyeronimus, will now forever be remembered and honoured as one of the region’s greats when the Grafton carnival rolls around each year. 

“As Belflyer was the first country sprinter to win a Kosciuszko and the fact that he was trained here in Grafton, we thought it was time that we, as a club, placed on permanent record the enormous effort of Belflyer to win that race,” Clarence River Jockey Club CEO Michael Beattie said. 

“If we don’t do anything, people will forget Belflyer and the great things he did for Country Racing in our part of the world.

“Plus, the owners were kind enough to donate the trophy to us, and it proudly sits here in our Member’s Area.”

The $30,000 Country Boosted Belflyer Prelude will be an 1100m Class Three Handicap on Sunday, July 2. 

The race winner is then exempt from the ballot into the $50,000 Country Boosted Belfyer Association Plate (1175m), which will complement what should be a bumper Grafton Cup meeting on July 13. 

“What we have done with the Belflyer is put a race on that should attract some of the best restricted-country sprinters in the state,” Beattie said. 

“For the last couple of years, we have run the $50,000 country-only showcase race, so this was a way we could put the race on one of our premier meetings.” 

For John Shelton, it means he will have two of his champions honoured on the same day, with the Belflyer Association Plate (1175m) joining the Mother’s Gift (1400m) for fillies and mares as one of four feature races on the Grafton Cup program. 

Mother’s Gift, ridden by Stephen Traecey, won the 2000 Ramornie for Shelton, with the 15-time winner one of Grafton’s greatest-ever horses. 

Belfyer – a 14-time winner – retired in 2019, but not before his 2018 Kosciuszko win and other victories in the 2017 Moree, Warwick, and Ballina Community Cups, the 2019 The Jackal at Grafton, and multiple metropolitan triumphs.

“When Michael told me that they were naming a race after him, I was really pleased, and it means a lot to me,” Shelton said. 

“I’m really proud of what he did as a racehorse, and I believe the club is going to invite the owners to the meeting, and they will come down from Rockhampton for the day.”

Shelton will even have a runner in the race, with Another Spirit set to go around in the Grafton feature. 

“He’s a nice little horse, and it would be very special and a massive bonus if he could win it,” Shelton said. 

Ben Looker, who rode Belflyer to many of his victories, was thrilled to see the former Grafton galloper honoured. 

“He was a good horse; I won a Moree Cup, Warwick Cup, and a couple of metropolitan races on him,” Looker said. 

“Plus, he has only beaten a half-length in the Ramornie (2018), and I had a fall earlier that day and couldn’t ride him, and I still believe to this day, if I was on him, we might have won.”

While Belfyer was a champion, Looker said Shelton deserved just as much recognition for his efforts.

Bred in Victoria by John Shannon, Belflyer was passed in at the 2013 Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale, with the breeder left with no option but to race the horse himself, placing him with regular trainer John Moloney.

Although Belflyer won three of his first six outings, he had remained winless for 12 months by early 2016 and was sold privately and shifted to the sunshine state.

Placed with Damien Rideout at Thangool, Belflyer won at Ipswich in his first start under the new ownership, and it was determined the horse should move closer to the big smoke, spending just on 12 months and 19 starts with Neville Petersen at Toowoomba.

He eventually arrived at Shelton’s yard in 2017, starting 20 times for eight wins while earning over $800,000 in just over two years.

Belflyer wins the 2018 Kosciuszko. Image: Bradley Photos.

“He came to Josh Shelton as a tried six-year-old, and John turned him around, and he deserves every accolade,” Looker said. 

“It was a great effort, and the horse is now living out his days near Rockhampton.”

Looker and Shelton will team up with Another Spirit in the Belflyer Association Plate, and it’s fair to say that many locals will be hoping the duo can chalk up another famous win. 

For more on the July 2 meeting and Grafton July Carnival, click here.