Ben Looker lands elusive Inverell Cup

Ben Looker with connections of the Wayne Oakenfull-trained Zaidin after their Inverell Cup win on Sunday. Photo: Ellen Dunger.

For Glen Innes born Ben Looker, there are four country cups he wants on the mantlepiece, and those four feature races get pencilled away in his diary each and every year.

While the upcoming Glen Innes Cup still eludes the 32-year-old, he’s won his ‘other hometown’ cups at Grafton and Port Macquarie, and on Sunday he ticked another one off the bucket list, winning his first Inverell Cup.

Riding for Wayne Oakenfull, Looker guided Zaidin ($4) to victory, with the pair just getting in by 0.03 of a length from the Stirling Osland-trained Buffet Buster (Mikayla Weir, $3.70), while in third and 1.22 lengths away was the Ross Stitt-trained Casirina (Brook Stower, $13). 

“It was good to finally win one,” Looker said. 

“I’m originally from Glen Innes, which is only half an hour away and I’ve been riding in the Inverell cup every year since I started. 

“I’ve ridden a few placings over the years but have never won it and it’s good to finally do it.”

In a tense finish, Zaidin got the bob in over Buffet Buster, and while there was a small wait on the official result as judges looked over the photo finish, Looker said he was always pretty confident he had done enough. 

“I thought I had stuck my head down on the line, but you are never too sure, and Buffet Buster dove very late, and I was quietly confident, but I was happy to see Wayne getting interviewed when I got back,” Looker laughed. 

Zaidin and Buffet Buster more or less travelled together a pair back in the 1400m feature, and turning for home, Looker was able to take a split between leaders Alpha Go and Eiger, while Mikayla Weir was forced wide, before hitting the line strongly on Buffet Buster only to fall just short.  

“I had a soft barrier and no weight, and I was always going to get the right run and it was just up to me to get the right run at the right time,” Looker said. 

“I was able to cut the corner and Buffet Buster had to come around them and that probably proved to be the difference at the finish.”

It was Oakenfull’s second Inverell Cup victory in two years, after he won the race in 2022 with Renegade, and Looker was thankful for the opportunity. 

“Wayne is a great supporter of mine, and he only has a small stable, but I always try and ride for him when I can,” Looker said. 

“He is a lovely person, good trainer, and he always presents his horses well and he deserves all of the credit for yesterday’s win.”

Oakenfull has Zaidin, Renegade, and Amazingly nominated for Saturday’s Glen Innes Cup, and Looker is hopeful that he can break his duck in his hometown feature race on one of the three Inverell gallopers. 

“I still haven’t won the Glen Innes Cup either and hopefully Wayne will have Zaidin in the race; he’s thrown a nom in, and he also has Amazingly in, which ran a good race in the Inverell Cup,” Looker said.  

“Obviously horses from the Inverell Cup progress on to the Glen Innes Cup but their welfare comes first, and we will see if Wayne thinks Zaidin or Amazingly pulls up okay,” Looker said. 

It was another good day of racing at Inverell, with the Inverell Shorts won by the Troy O’Neile-trained Cassy’s Sister

For results click here