Canberra trainers eye Tomingley Cup

The Doug Gorrel-trained Alpha Lane was a good winner at Tomingley in 2021. The six-year-old will race in the Tomingley Picnic Cup on Saturday. Photo: Racing Photography.

The 2022 Tomingley Picnic Cup will boast a Canberra flavour on Saturday, with both Darryl Rolfe and Doug Gorrel setting their gallopers for the $6000 feature. 

Opera Tickets finished fourth in the 1500m race last year for Rolfe before going on to finish third in the $50,000 NSW Picnic Racing Association Picnic Champion Series final at Coonamble in October, and he said the race suited his eight-year-old, who would go around again on Saturday.

“It looks like a race we can win – that is the main reason we are going and the (Picnic) Championships is the last thing on my mind,” Rolfe said.

The Tickets gelding, which enters the race third-up after recent efforts at Canberra and Queanbeyan, will start for the 64th time at Tomingley and Rolfe said his old stager was better suited to picnic racing these days. 

“Over 1200m, he always gets back three or four lengths last, and first-up at Canberra, they went quick, and he was lost for speed and then he got to the line in the last 100m,” Rolfe said.

“Then the same thing happened at Queanbeyan, and they just went a bit too quick for him.

“He is a good old horse, but he is getting past being a TAB-day horse and he needs that drop in company and he gets that at Tomingley.”

Ricky Blewitt will ride Opera Tickets, and the stable will take Guiltless along for the 800m Class Two Trophy Race, with Leandro Ribeiro taking the ride on the six-year-old.

“It takes about three and a quarter hours to Parkes and another half an hour to Tomingley, but they are good straight roads and it’s an easy enough drive,” Rolfe said. 

“We like going to Tomingley; it’s a good track and we always go close to getting a winner there and we should go pretty close on Saturday.”

Both Rolfe and Gorrel, who support picnic racing across the state, have missed out on recent South East picnic meetings in their own back yard, with both the Yass and Crookwell meetings abandoned due to wet-weather and the subsequent state of both tracks, and Rolfe said it had hurt his stable. 

“With them two meetings getting put off; it knocked us around getting into the (Picnic Champion Series) final and it cost me four winners,” Rolfe said. 

“Hamish The Swift and Guiltless would have been odds-on favourites at Yass and Leandro was going to ride four good chances for us at Crookwell and I was honestly confident I would have got four winners across both meetings.”

Gorrel also believed the abandoned Yass and Crookwell meetings cost his team dearly.

“It’s cruelled my chances of getting any horses into the (Picnic Champion Series) final and cost us a lot of money,” Gorrel said. 

“We were taking a few TAB horses to those races to try and put a few dollars in the bank, because it is a tough game and small fishes are sweet, but it wasn’t to be.”

Gorrel will present Alpha Lane in the Tomingley Cup, and there is no doubting the six-year-old will handle the track, having won the 1500m Class B Handicap in record time in 2021.

“He did enjoy the track last year and he will handle it, but he was in his best form back then,” Gorrel said. 

“That was his best prep by far and he was going well, and I am happy with him now, but he is really struggling for form.”

The Scintillo gelding finished seventh at Holbrook on Saturday and Gorrel said he would get another chance at Tomingley, with the Canberra galloper dropping back in class. 

“His run at Holbrook wasn’t too bad; he got squeezed at the 800m and he would have been a chance and finished closer if that didn’t happen,” Gorrel said. 

“We will give him another chance, and we have a couple of really good owners in him who have become good mates and we are going there to try and pinch a cup before we find a good home for him.”

Gorrel has three entered for Tomingley, with Georgian Court set to contest the 1150m Class Three Trophy Race and Sheeza Menzies will go around in the 1500m Class B Handicap. 

There were good nominations for Tomingley, with 48 horses entered to race on the popular six-race-program and 10 entered for the Tomingley Cup.

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While racing takes centre stage at Tomingley, a big day of fashions and entertainment will keep racegoers and their families entertained, and for more information, readers can click here