Grant Buckley eyes good book of rides at Orange

Grant Buckley is off to Orange on Friday. Photo: Racing Photography.

Grant Buckley will kick-off a very busy few days of racing at Orange on Friday, with the champion country hoop landing a decent book of rides.  

Buckley has a ride in every race, and his best chance appears to be on the Greg Hickman-trained Smartawi ($6) in the 1400m Maiden Plate. 

The three-year-old is still a maiden after seven starts but he has been racing in tougher events at Newcastle since returning from a 169-day spell. 

The Smart Missile gelding finished sixth when first-up over 1200m earlier this month, and he caught the eye last start, flashing late when finishing fourth beaten only 1.7 lengths, again over the 1200m journey. 

Buckley believes Hickman has found the right race for the maiden galloper. 

“It’s back in grade a fair bit, the 1400m will suit, and it’s drawn well and has been racing around the money at the provincials, and it is one of my better chances for sure,” he said. 

Buckley has another good ride when jumping aboard the Ciaron Maher and Dave Eustace-trained Merisi ($6) in the 1600m Class One Handicap, while he believes the Ashlee Grives-trained Down To Earth ($18) can rediscover his best form in the 1400m Open Handicap. 

“Down To Earth put two together and looked like going on with it at one stage,” Buckley said. 

“He’s had a couple of runs since but it didn’t work out, and the tracks probably didn’t suit but Ashlee is a good trainer in her own right, and that horse should be really competitive in a race like that.”

Buckley heads to Gosford on Saturday, and Port Macquarie on Sunday, covering a lot of kilometres in three days, and he is pleased to be jumping aboard some live chances.

“It’s good to go anywhere with a good book of rides,” Buckley said. 

“It’s so competitive in the jockey’s room these days, and no matter where you go, everyone can hold their own so it’s really good to get good rides and a lot of rides.”

As far as riding at Orange on Friday, the veteran hoop admitted that there were a few subtle nuances that needed to be respected but apart from those, he was expecting a good day’s racing. 

“Orange races quite good. The only start that can be a bit tricky is the mile, but all the other starts are good, and you get a fair chance,” Buckley said.

“The only thing about Orange is that you go uphill from about the 700 or 600 mark, and you need to keep a bit in the reserves.

“You sort of want to track a horse into the race and if you can get one to drag you up the hill, it’s better than hunting them up and making them do all the work.”

While on-track action will take centre stage at Orange, there is plenty of entertainment on offer to patrons off-track, with fashions on the field, a DJ providing entertainment, along with full bar, kiosk, and TAB facilities.

Catering is also available, and readers can click here for more details. 

For fields, click here.

Orange tips, trials, and tribulations 

Race 1: 5 Hide Your Heart – $2.25

It’s hard to look past the favourite in the opening event, with the Bjorn Baker-trained Hide Your Heart arriving off a good, fast-finishing run over 1400m at Goulburn last start. 

The extra furlong will suit, and Ash Morgan gets his chance in this very winnable event. 

Race 2: 5 Sandastan – $5

I’m tempted to lay the favourite in this event, with a couple of quality provincial gallopers heading bush.

The standout visitor appears to be the Richard Litt-trained Sandastan, with Jamie Powell taking the ride. 

The four-year-old had been contesting tougher races at Hawkesbury and Warwick Farm, but he found form last start, finishing second at Goulburn over 2100m, and a similar effort would see him go close in this race. 

Race 3: 8 Smartawi – $6 (Best Value)

This gelding arrives here from the strong Greg Hickman yard, and with Grant Buckley in the saddle, he looks a big chance. 

He found the line strongly last start at Newcastle, and he is back to the country, draws well, and is up in distance, which should only suit. 

Race 4: 4 Life’s A Party – $3.40

The Mark Jones-trained Life’s A Party has been in the black book ever since winning a trial at Wellington back in July. 

She’s a half-sister to recent winner Art Angel and she appears to be primed for a big first-up run for Jake Pracey-Holmes. The only concern is the wide draw. 

Race 5: 4 Listen To The Band – $2.30 (Best Bet)

We made Listen To The Band our best bet at Warren earlier this month, and he didn’t disappointment when returning from a 900-day spell, winning by five lengths. 

Trained by Clint Lundholm, and with Jake Pracey-Holmes on his back again, it’s hard to look past the eight-year-old, who should go very close for connections. 

Race 6: 3 Island Press – $8

For an Open Handicap, this is a tough race to get a read on, with some younger up-and-coming types taking on some out of form but well-performed veterans. 

I’m inclined to look past Island Press’ first-up form (3:0-0-0) simply because Dean Mirfin trialled the four-year-old at Hawkesbury on December 19, and he finished sixth of nine, beaten 3.6 lengths over 800m. 

Anthony Cavallo takes the ride and connections drawn okay with gate five. 

Race 7: 5 Packer – $7.50

There is already good money about for the Greg Hickman-trained Packer, which is in by half it’s original quote to $7.50 after opening $15. 

His run two starts back in a tougher race at Bathurst when finishing fourth and beaten only 0.9 of a length suggests he will be right up to a race of this class. 

He’s never far away, he’s fit and he will be thereabouts when the whips are cracking.