The Jacaranda Cup Prelude will take centre stage at Clarence River Jockey Club on Tuesday and some of the best Northern NSW country sprinters will be in action in the 1106m Open Handicap.
In the early markets, the John Shelton trained Tara Jasmine, is the short-price $1.65 favourite.
The four-year-old mare deserves to be the favourite, registering four wins from 10 starts and recording some scintillating sectionals in the process.
At her last start, under the guidance of Ben Looker, Tara Jasmine flashed at the leaders late, winning by 1.96 lengths.
Still, Shelton believed the $1.65 quote was too short considering her opposition in Tuesday’s Grafton feature.
“It’s a ridiculous price. I am sure she will run well but It’s a pretty good race,” Shelton said.
“There is going to be plenty of speed. Zac Attack has good form, She’s Choosie can run too and September Girl was very good first-up the other day – It’s not all cut and dry.”
The Cowboy Blue mare will have Looker back in the saddle again, and is unbeaten on her home track at Grafton, and while Shelton believed she was primed for another big run, he did have queries around his mare dropping back in distance and rising in class for this race.
“She is up in class, but she gives me that sort of feeling that she will handle it,’ Shelton said.
“She has never let me down at Grafton and she drops in weight, but it is a harder race, she does drop back in distance and there are some good horses going around.”
One galloper at big odds ($34) that will be trying to surprise Tara Jasmine is the Shane Everson trained, September Girl, which will be ridden by 1.5kg claiming apprentice, Olivia Pickering.
Although boasting 23 starts for 4 wins and 8 placings, The five-year-old still looks a progressive type, and Everson said the Jacaranda Cup on November 3 would be on the cards, assuming she went well in the Prelude on Tuesday.
“There are no set plans with her but if she races well, the logical step is to go there (to the Jacaranda Cup),” Everson said.
The Red Element mare piled on three consecutive victories back in February and March, rising through the grades quickly, and after an 18-week spell, she returned nicely at Ballina last start, hitting the line strongly to finish third in a 1000m Benchmark 66 Handicap.
“She is a hard mare to place; she has raced herself out of (Benchmark) 66s but it’s a big jump to opens,” Everson said.
“I would say she will be competitive, but this is harder. She is always good fresh, but last prep she won first-up and it was only a Class One, and at Ballina it was harder first-up but I was rapt with the run; she had a big weight, got back to last and worked to the line well.
“If anything, she did her best work after the line and was going strongly and that reads well for tomorrow.”
Everson agreed with Shelton though, suggesting it was a tough race with a handful of genuine winning prospects.
“It is a solid race. A horse like Tara Jasmine is the shortest in the market but she has to do what our girl did last prep and that is go from those lower grade races to opens, but I think she can,” Everson said.
“It’s not an easy race. Those couple of older horse like She’s Choosie has done this all before and Zac Attack for Ed O’Rourke looks a good chance – It should be a good race.”
The Jacaranda Cup Prelude is race six on the seven-race Grafton program.