Hit The Target on target in Kempsey Cup

The Stephen Jones-trained Hit The Target gets home by the barest of margins to win Friday’s Kempsey Cup. Photo: Australian Community Media.

Everything was seemingly against the Stephen Jones-trained Hit The Target in Friday’s Akubra Kempsey Cup.

The eight-year-old, who started as a $6 chance in the $40,000 race, was made to carry the top weight of 61kg, and the track was certainly more suited to backmarkers, with the previous six winners on the program coming from off the pace. 

Still, Matthew McGuren took the ride, and the pair jumped straight to the front from gate one, leading from pillar to post in the 1450m event, holding off the Kris Lees-trained Juventus (Aaron Bullock, $4.60) by a mere 0.01 of a length, while in third and 0.77 of a length off the pace was the Ross Stitt-trained Casirina (Brooke Stower, $11). 

“He is a gutsy old fella. Nothing won from in front on the day, but he jumped to the front and got it done,” Jones told NSW Country and Picnic Racing. 

“He’s always thereabout and always honest and when you have him right on the day, he always sticks his head out and that’s exactly what he did at Kempsey.”

Incredibly, it was the Scone trainers first trip to Kempsey, and he was happy to leave with the silverware after being made to wait for the photo finish decision. 

“I had never had a runner at Kempsey before and it was a new experience and it is another country cup to our credit,” Jones said. 

“It was a tight finish. I thought he did stick his head out, but it was very close, and I didn’t get carried away until the photo come out and we were very happy to accept the cup.”

Hit The Target has been a good earner for connections and Jones, having started 40 times for nine wins and 10 placings, earning connections over $300,000 in prizemoney. 

“He is definitely a good old country cup horse, and he’s proven that during his career,” Jones said. 

He won the Parkes Cup and (Bathurst) Soldiers Saddle, and he’s won in Sydney, so he’s done his job. 

“We are now just looking around for the right race. We are half looking at the Mudgee Cup, and it means he would have to go up to the mile, but he has won at Rosehill over 1500m, and I think it could be a nice race for him.”

Part-owned by Sky Racing presenter Gavin Carmody, the win was a popular result for many watching on, and Jones thanked the ownership group for sticking by their galloper. 

“For sure. Gav has been good to us, and we are close friends, and we are happy for all of the guys still involved,” Jones said. 

“A few of them got out of him, and the other guys stuck by me and are happy with how he’s going.”

It was a massive meeting for the Kempsey Race Club on Friday, and in the Steve Keir Memorial Benchmark 66 sprint, the Graham Payne-trained Lucifer’s Reward (Georgina McDonnell, $26) popped up at good odds, beating the Kris Lees-trained Phule (Aaron Bullock, $5.50) in second and the Joseph Burges-trained Markwell Dreamer (Ash Morgan, $2.80) in third. 

For all results from Kempsey’s eight-race program, readers can click here