Newcastle trainer Ben Blay will return to Gundagai on Sunday, hoping to land a breakthrough winner on his hometown track.
Gundagai born and bred, Blay will have maiden Smokin’ Disaster (Bradley Vale) contesting the 1800m Class One/Maiden Plate and Nothing’s Sacred (Damon Budler) racing in the 1400m Class Two Handicap.
“I always try and get something ready at least twice a year to come back and see Mum and Dad, and hopefully, I’ve got something hot to trot when we do come,” Blay said.
Despite drawing wide with gate nine, Nothing’s Sacred will have some admirers, especially after his excellent effort when finishing second in the 2022 Hair of the Dog Cup in November.
The five-year-old has since had a 12-week let-up before returning with runs at Dubbo last month and Mudgee earlier this month.
The Newcastle trainer expects Nothing’s Sacred to run a good race for connections.
“His not coming there with the blistering form he had last time, but since coming back from a spell, he’s had a couple of runs, and there have been excuses both times,” Blay said.
“I’m sure there is a good race in him on Sunday; he always tries hard, and he is just one of those horses that don’t switch off and keeps going to the line.
“We’ll aim to be a little more aggressive than what we were at Mudgee and give him every chance, and he galloped really well; he’s fit and ready to go, and we just need a bit of luck on his side.”
Smokin’ Disaster is a bit of a wildcard. However, Blay hopes the seven-year-old maiden can make a reasonable effort for connections.
The Sharpnel gelding that is out of Calamity Miss is raced by Melissa and Brianna Peet among other owners, and a win would mean the world to them as Smokin’ Disaster is the last horse bred by Melissa’s father and Brianna’s grandfather, the late Leslie Peet.
Additionally, fellow owner Alan Saddler is currently in palliative care.
“Some Wagga locals own him, and he’s a half-brother to Monterey Zar,” Blay said.
“One of the owners is quite sick, and it’s the last horse Leslie Peet ever bred, and the family wants to have a crack and see if they can win with his last horse.
“We thought we’d bring him down so all the owners can see him, and I think he will improve over distance, and he gets that chance for the first time when racing over 1800 at Gundagai.”
For Blay and his new wife, Kate Blay (nee Roots), it will be extra special every time they return to Gundagai after the pair got married there during last year’s Snake Gully Cup carnival.
“We had the wedding in the morning and raced in the afternoon,” Blay laughed.
“It’s like a family reunion at Gundagai, and Kate’s parents come from down from Townsville for the Snake Gully Cup, and we thought, ‘why not save the date for a wedding and save a bit of extra travel time for everyone’, and it worked out great.”
It’s a massive day for Gundagai on Sunday, with the $36,000 Gundagai Cup featured on the program.
The 1800m event has attracted a top-notch field of 11 runners, and there is good reason to win the race, with the winner exempt from the ballot in next month’s $200,000 Wagga Wagga Gold Cup.
What you need to know about Sunday’s Gundagai Cup meeting.
– Gates open at 11 am.
– $15 for adult entry.
– $10 for concession entry.
– Free for kids under 18.
– A loaded 8-race program.
– Plenty of food and refreshments.