Wagga trainer and Tumbarumba local, Graham Byatt, is a legend of the sport, having won the 1989 VRC Grand National as a jockey, riding home Sir Agrifo in Australia’s premier steeplechase event.
These days, Byatt can still be found riding track work at Wagga, but more importantly, he is now carving out a career as a professional trainer.
Lennox Road was his first winner at Tumut back in 2019, but this Sunday, Byatt will take on one of the biggest races of his training career, with Blazing Zone set to contest the $45,000 Murrumbidgee Cup over the 1800m.
“I am confident he will go alright, but we won’t know what’s in the race until final fields are out, but on his run the other day, he would have to be somewhere close,” Byatt said.
The run Byatt is speaking off, was Blazing Zones’ 2.19 lengths fifth to Maid of Ore in the Gundagai Cup on Sunday, with the four-year-old putting in a good effort for jockey, Bradley Vale.
“It was a good run, and we are very happy with him. He is looking for a wet track, he loves the wet, but considering it was a good three, I thought it was a decent run,” Byatt said.
“We only just missed out by a couple of lengths there yesterday. He (Vale) followed the favourite, and we hoped to get a cart into the race, but the fav stopped, which didn’t help us.”
Sunday’s Murrumbidgee Cup is a lead-in to next month’s $200,000 Wagga Gold Cup, with the winner exempt from the ballot, meaning Blazing Zone would be a guaranteed starter in the feature event if he wins at Wagga.
“He is in an 1800m race on Sunday, which will suit and it’s also a qualifier for the Wagga Cup,” Byatt said.
“I was really happy with him on Sunday and couldn’t be happier with him right now.
“He will have a trot and canter until Sunday, but he pulled up well, so we will see how he goes.”
Wagga should suit the Eurozone gelding, and Byatt believed a tilt at Wagga’s feature race wasn’t out of the question.
“It will certainly suit him better at Wagga with his racing pattern, the bigger tracks definitely do suit him – we can afford to get back a little bit,” Byatt said.
“The Wagga Cup is a race we think we could go to, but we need to start with this race and see how he goes.”
Vale will again take the ride on Blazing Zone, with Byatt hinting that the lower weight should suit his galloper.
“I would say Bradley Vale will ride him again – he has dropped a lot in weight, compared to what he has been carrying at previous starts, so he will really appreciate that weight drop and having Brad on board,’ Byatt said.
It could be a big Wagga Cup carnival for Byatt, who has picked up talented galloper, Real Key, while stable favourite, Lennox Road, is on his way back to the races.
“I’ve also got Real Key coming into the stables, and he will be aimed for the (Wagga) Town Plate, and he is a good genuine horse,” Byatt said.
“Lennox Road is back. He had seven weeks in the paddock, and he has been in work for nearly two weeks, and he looks a million dollars and should be back in four or five weeks.”