Can Lightning strike twice for Malahat at Gunnedah

Jacob Golden and Malahat (inside) on their way to victory in the 2020 Lightning Handicap. Photo: Bradley Photos.

The Aleacia Bennett trained Malahat will be shooting for back-to-back Lighting Handicaps at Gunnedah Jockey Club on Sunday.

The six-year-old won the feature race in 2020 after the Gunnedah Cup meeting was transferred to Tamworth, and he again shapes as one of the favourites in the jump and run 1000m Open Handicap. 

“It would be fantastic to win it again,” Bennett said.

“Any win is good, and they don’t come very easily, and it would be especially good for the owners. They have been very, very patient.”

The Exceed and Excel gelding will be third up for connections, after finishing a first-up second placing at Muswellbrook which followed a 24-week spel.

Malahat then finishED down the track at Hawkesbury at his second start.

“I guess his preparation has been very similar to first race back at Muswellbrook,” Bennett said. 

“It didn’t suit him at Hawkesbury, the track was too hard.”

The winner of five races and almost $300,000 in prizemoney is going well enough to win at Gunnedah according to Bennett. 

“He is hard fit, he tries his hardest every time, he puts his heart into it, and he loves it,” Bennett said.

“It depends whether it all lines up on the day for him but gate one is perfect.”

Apprentice hoop Jacob Golden takes the ride for connections, which could be an omen, after the three-kilo claimer guided Malahat to a Lighting Handicap victory in 2020 and another win at Tamworth back in September. 

“He has only ridden him twice for two wins, so let’s hope he can make it three from three,” Bennett laughed. 

The Singleton trainer said the $32,000 race looked tough on paper, which she believed was very typical for this type of Open Handicap.

“These horses get pretty hard to place, so you are always looking for these open sprints,” Bennett said. 

“We have been trying to keep him in work and when you find those races on the programs, you try and work around them.

“It’s a tough race because they are all kind of the same horses, and you run around against them all the time.”

While Bennett, Golden and Malahat search for back-to-back Lightning Handicaps, the feature race on the card is the $40,000 Gunnedah Cup. 

The 1600m Open Handicap held up well, with a full field of 14 runners and four reserves.

2018 winner, Unbiased, goes around for Glenn Morgan from gate one, while Jackson Searle in the saddle.

The Tamworth trainer also has Breakdance in the race, with Qin Yong booked to take the ride. 

Overall, the Gunnedah Cup meeting is a punters delight, with a strong eight-race-program, complemented by a big day off the track, which starts with the cup Calcutta on Saturday night and a Sunday full of fashions, entertainment and plenty more.