Grafton specialist eyes Yamba Cup

The Ethan Ensby-trained Maximum Vortex will be searching for a fifth win at Grafton in Sunday’s Yamba Cup.
Image: Darren Winningham.

Cawongla-based trainer Ethan Ensby believes his in-form sprinter, Maximum Vortex, is primed to win Sunday’s Yamba Cup. 

The four-year-old boasts a good record, having started nine times while winning on four occasions.

The Kuroshio gelding is a Grafton specialist (4:4-0-0), having not lost a race there. 

He’s fresh off a win in his last start on the same track when he took out the 1175m Benchmark 74 Handicap on March 7, and Mollie Fitzgerald stays on for the two-kilogram claim, meaning he’ll only carry 54kg. 

“He’s a better horse at Grafton, and he’s not mentally there when we travel him,” Ensby told NSW Country and Picnic Racing

“He should have won a Highway in Sydney and a race in Brisbane, but for whatever reason, we can’t travel him. He loves Grafton, and this race falls into our lap.

“We’ll have the two kilograms off with Molly, so it will be the least amount of weight he has carried in a long time.”

Leading into his last-start win at Grafton, Ensby had Maximum Vortex entered to race at Eagle Farm, but he scratched due to ‘an easier race’ at Grafton, which is how it played out. 

With Mollie Fitzgerald in the saddle, the pair commenced nicely from gate seven and went on to win by two-thirds of a length, justifying the $2.20 quote when beating the John Shelton-trained Cabsav (Luke Rolls, $4.40) in second and the Kris Lees-trained Oakfield Duke (Andrew Mallyon, $6) in third.

“We had him in at Eagle Farm on Saturday, but I wasn’t sure it was the right race for him, and I had a couple of horses spike some temps the week before,” Ensby said.

“We take temps every morning, and their bloods came back with a few anomalies, so we were 100% happy.
“He was fine, but he did draw a bit of a sticky gate at Eagle Farm, and he did have one massive advantage of having Cejay Graham on, but I’m not sure if her magic could have helped us on the day, so we had a bit of a look around, and they gifted us this race at Grafton.”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing, with Maximum Vortex nearly scratched from the event after suffering an injury.  

“My thought was to take the easy $13,000 and go there, and he did win, but he did it on three legs,” Ensby said.

“He had cut his leg, and it just blew up. It all came to a head 24 hours before the run, and after a lot of icing and cold hosing to get it down, by the next morning, it was down to a point where I was confident it wasn’t going to be an issue. 

“By the time he got to the races, it was pretty well back to what it should have been, and he won well.”

While he will be on the ten-day backup, Ensby is confident Maximum Vortex can make it five from five at Grafton on Sunday. 

“He’s done well, and he loves Grafton,” Ensby said. 

“They’ve put this race on for us again on Sunday, and he’s usually not a horse that I back up, but it’s too tempting. 

“We like to space his runs, but he’s pulled up the best he’s ever pulled up from a race, and he hasn’t left an oat; his bloods are on money.

“He swam Saturday and Sunday and ponied all week. Today (Wednesday) is a light day, so he’ll just pony for the rest of the week before a day off on Saturday and the races on Sunday. 

“He is in the best order we can have him; he’s nice and fresh and has bounced out of that run really well.”

Connections have drawn awkwardly with gate 11, and they come up against the likes of Swanston and Bon Cassie, but Ensby believes his galloper can take that next step up in grade. 
“The thing with him is that he has to lead and find the rail, so an inside gate is advantageous, but he jumps well enough over those slightly longer trips to get to the front and cross them quite easily,” Ensby said. 

“He drew sticky at Grafton last start but came out like a cannon, and Mollie crossed straight away, and he never looked like getting beat, and we’ll be hoping for something similar on Sunday.”

While the Yamba Cup is the feature on Grafton’s program, the $50,000 Super Maiden is set to be an enthralling affair. 

Attracting a full field of 14 starters and six emergencies, every runner boasts exposed form, and there will be plenty of trainers fancying their chances. 

Off the track, it is the Blues, Brews & BBQ’s race day, which includes free kid’s entertainment, a wide variety of foods, and entertainment. 

For more on the race day, click here