Gretzky eyeing three on the trot in Binnaway Cup

Ronald Simpson will ride the Dar Lunn-trained Gretzky in Saturday’s Binnaway Cup. Photo: Racing Photography.

Dar Lunn knows what it takes to win a Binnaway Cup. 

He’s won the most recent editions of the race, with Classy Rebel (Jake Pracey-Holmes, $7) living up to his name in 2021, while in 2019, he won the race with the locally owned Helstar (Ashley Morgan, $13); the race didn’t go ahead in 2020 and 2022. 

On Saturday, the Dubbo trainer will have Gretzky going for three wins on the trot in the Exchange Hotel Jack O’Brien Memorial Binnaway Cup (1300m).

It’s been a big form turnaround for the All Too Hard gelding, which arrived at Lunn’s yard with a record of 30 starts for two wins and nine placings.

In three starts for Lunn, he has won twice for jockey Ronald Simpson, taking out the 1200m Benchmark 45 Handicap at Lightning Ridge on April 8 before backing up and winning the 1200m Class Three Handicap at Warren on April 15. 

Lunn explained how Gretzky ended up in his care. 

“What happened was Graham and Noeline Bradley own the horse, and I grew up with Graham Bradley and them when I was an apprentice in Walgett,” Lunn said. 

“They ended up buying this horse online, and it was trained by (Michael, Wayne, and John) Hawkes and Joe Ible, and they rang me up about two and a half years ago and wanted him scoped. 

“They brought him down, dropped him off, and the bloke said he was all right, and they came and picked up, and he eventually went to Peter Sinclair’s, and he had three starts and didn’t do anything.”

“They tipped him back out, and he hadn’t raced for 43 weeks.”

A subtle gear change has seemingly made all the difference, and with Ronald Simpson in the saddle with his two-kilogram claim, Gretzky shapes as the horse to beat in tomorrow’s $14,000 event.

“I took him to Wellington the day before the (Wellington) Boot meeting, and he was in a 1000m race, and I kept all his gear the same from when Peter had him, and I started him thinking he would go all right,” Lunn said. 

“He must have missed the kick by 8 or 9 lengths, and all he had to beat was one to collect the $735, and I thought he’d be no chance after missing the kick, but he beat one home, but they still called me into the (steward’s) room, and they said he did nothing wrong but that he had to trial because he missed the kick so far. 

“I took the blinkers off and trialled him at Mudgee; Kath Bell-Pitomac rode him, and I said to Kath, ‘give him a liven up and get him up on his toes’, and he trialled nice.

“So, I rang Graham and told him I’ll take him to Lightning Ridge, and if he jumps, he should win, and he happened to win well. 

“There wasn’t much else on, so I thought I’d back him up at Warren, and he came out and won again, and he hasn’t done anything differently, and we haven’t changed much except for taking the blinkers off, and he is racing well.”

Lunn hopes Gretzky can keep up his form in what he believes is a winnable race. 

“That’s what I said to the boys; let’s try and take him where I think he can keep winning, and I think he will be hard to beat at Binnaway,” Lunn said. 

“He just needs to keep jumping the way he’s been jumping.”

Lunn believes his stable can land a winning double, with the Guy Mitchell and Rob Pratten-owned Sensei Jackie to be ridden by Simpson in the Dennis Frater Memorial 1300m Maiden Handicap. 

“His runs have been nice, and he had a long time off, but he’s come back and ran some nice races,” Lunn said. 

“At Mudgee two starts back, he ran a good race when running second, and last start at Narromine, I thought he’d be hard to beat, and at first, I thought he was a bit disappointing. 

“After watching the race a few times, a few things didn’t go right for him, and he got a bit far back and didn’t travel right, but at Binnaway, it’s an easier race, and if he can travel, he will be a big chance.

“Plus, the owners come from Binnaway, and they’d love to win a race there.”

It’s set to be a big couple of days at Binnaway, with the club hosting a calcutta at the Exchange Hotel tonight from 7pm.

Tomorrow, gates open at 11.30pm, and racing starts at 1.30pm. 

Off-track, fashions on the field will be huge, with competitors able to enter the Classic Lady, Contemporary Lady, Best Millinery, Gentleman, Junior Girl and Junior Boy sections. 

There’s no ATM on course, so be sure to bring cash.

For more on the race day, click here.

For Binnaway’s fields, click here.