Karen McCarroll and her team will make their yearly pilgrimage to Lightning Ridge on Saturday, with connections starting Lady Riz in the $12,000 Lightning Ridge Cup.
The Wellington trainer will set her six-year-old for the 1200m feature first-up following a 23-week spell, and while she admitted the Zariz mare might need more ground later in her preparation, she was hopeful that Lady Riz would sprint the six furlongs while fresh.
“It is always a worry first-up. She is more of a 1400m to a mile type of horse, and maybe even a 1700m horse later on,” McCarroll said.
“It will be 1200m first-up, but it is a dogleg straight there at Lightning Ridge, but she should be doing her best late and she is every chance.
“It’s a good race, especially with Ecker Road (Bryan Dixon) and Fearless Mila (Clint Lundholm) – it’s actually held up quite well the race.”
Lady Riz has started 34 times for five wins and nine placings and was racing in the Northern Territory in the middle of last year, starting four times without much luck before returning to NSW later in her preparation, winning at Narromine in September and Coonamble in October.
McCarroll believes her mare didn’t handle the Northern Territory heat and was better suited to racing in NSW.
“She didn’t handle the heat very well in the Northern Territory and she came back at the end of her prep, and I was so pleased that she could win those races at Narromine and Coonamble,” McCarroll said.
“After that, she had about eight or nine weeks in the paddock and spent the hotter part of the summer off and she did well in the paddock.”
McCarroll loves heading to Lightning Ridge for their once-a-year race day, and the Wellington trainer knows what it takes to win a Lightning Ridge Cup, having won the feature back in 2003 with Natural Kalisto (Ben Hull) and again in 2007 with Baradine Bullet (Kayla McEwen).
“It’s a great track; it’s always fun and they have a great little community,” McCarroll said.
“We have been there a few times, and it is a bit of a tradition now, but it’s been hard to get there the last few years with Covid and rain.
“We have had some luck and we won the (Opal) Bracelet twice with Natural Kalisto and Baradine Bullet.”
McCarroll will take three runners to Lightning Ridge, heading up on the Friday to camp for two nights before returning home on Sunday.
While Lady Riz will take on the feature race, Gunnerside will contest the 900m Maiden Plate and Patchy Girl will start in the 1200m Maiden Plate for the stable.
“Gunnerside – I would hope that he would be some sort of show in that race,” McCarroll said.
“He got injured at Darwin and he had a significant spell, and his first run back on the first day of the (Wellington) Boot carnival was good, and he just knocked up and he should be a lot better for the run.
“Patchy Girl should go well too. Her work has been good, but she is a little bit of a nervy thing, and it will be interesting to see how she handles the trip, but sometimes that helps those type of horses.”
Elissa Meredith, who has been riding in Wellington one day a week for track work, will ride McCarroll’s three chances on the day.
It should be a good Easter Saturday of racing for Lightning Ridge too, with their six-race-card attracting a very healthy 77 nominations.