Visiting trainers from far and wide will trek to Port Macquarie on Friday and Saturday for the annual Port Macquarie Cup meeting and two-day carnival.
With $668,000 in prizemoney on offer across both days, headlined by the $200,000 Port Macquarie Cup on the Friday, there is no wonder the meeting has attracted various leading Sydney and country stables, making for a very entertaining program.
In the $80,000 Birdon Group Sprint over the 1200m, the likes of Kris Lees (Newcastle), Kody Nestor (Dubbo) and Gregory McFarlane (Gosford) will make the race a hit and run mission, but local trainer Jenny Graham will be leading the local charge with both The Drake and Nicci Trix engaged.
Graham said winning at home was always special, but she did envision a challenge come Friday.
“It’s nice winning any race on your home track and in your hometown,” Graham said.
“It will be hard, and any race is hard enough to win now and there is a lot of good horses and trainers travelling.”
Despite the challenge ahead, Graham was confident both of her charges would put their best hooves forward.
“I think my horses are going into the race well and are nice chances,” Graham said.
The Drake has drawn gate seven and Koby Jennings takes the ride, and his trainer said the seven-year-old would be better suited to his home track after finishing a disappointing last in the Untamed Sprint last time out at Lismore.
“He pulled up good after the run, but I think we will see quite a bit of improvement,” Graham said.
“He races well here and it’s a nice big track, which suits him.”
Graham said a softer Port Macquarie surface and faster pace would also help The Drake’s chances on the day.
“The track will have a bit of cushion, which will be an advantage for him and and there will be a bit of speed and that will suit The Drake,” she said.
Graham also saddles up impressive youngster, Nicci Trix, with Ashley Morgan taking the ride, but the in-form Welsh hoop will need to be at his best when jumping from gate 10.
“Unfortunately, Nicci Trix is drawn a bit wide, but the connections wanted to have a go at this race and that’s why we are targeting the race,” Graham said.
The Nicconi mare is a three-time winner from only eight starts and most recently finished fourth when first-up in a TAB Highway Handicap at Royal Randwick, finishing only 2.21 lengths behind eventual winner, Leo.
The Port Macquarie trainer admitted this was a step up in class, but she believed Nicci Trix oozed natural ability and would be thereabouts when it mattered most.
“I would have preferred to have her in her own class again, but connections would like to run her in this, and she is certainly not out of it,” Graham said.
“She should be competitive. She has nice natural speed and plenty of ability.”
Graham couldn’t separate the pair when asked which galloper was most likely to win, instead, touching on why both of her runners were good chances to win the feature sprint race.
“The Drake is just a seasoned horse, just like a lot of the others in the race and should go well and the other filly is an up-and-coming type with a lot of upside,” Graham said.
The Birdon Group Sprint, which jumps at 3.50pm on Friday, is just one feature race on a big day at Port Macquarie, with the eight-race Showcase program set to jump at 1.20pm.
The Hastings Cup (1500m) is another feature on the card, with plenty of local chances competing for $50,000 and the Port Macquarie Cup (2000m) is the main event, with a myriad of visiting trainers taking on the locals as they chase the $200,000 in prizemoney on offer.