The long four-and-a-half-hour trip from Mudgee to Walcha hasn’t deterred Mack Griffith, who will race up-and-comer Johnny Dash in Friday’s $45,000 Walcha Cup (1440m).
A talented gelding, last time out, Johnny Dash (Nick Heywood) took on a 1400m Open Handicap at Parkes and stormed home vigorously, finishing second when beaten a neck by the Dean Mirfin-trained Island Press.
At Walcha, the Mudgee galloper has drawn the inside alley, and NSW’s leading apprentice, Anna Roper (54 wins), jumps aboard him for the ride.
“The draw is a big plus for him at Walcha,” Griffith told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“We were only going if he drew soft, and well, a few of the better chances have drawn wide, and they’ll have to do some work, and he should get an easy go of it.”
A five-time winner, Johnny Dash has been ultra-consistent since being transferred from Annabel Neasham to Griffith, winning at Dubbo, Gunnedah, and Narromine last year.
“If anything, his record should read better,” Griffith said.
“Things haven’t always gone his way, such as barriers and track conditions, but when things do go his way, he has plenty of ability.”
The Walcha Cup wasn’t always in Griffith’s peripherals, with the astute conditioner explaining that it was the only race within driving distance that suited his awkwardly rated (74) gelding.
“We didn’t really plan it, but if we don’t go, there aren’t many other options for him,” Griffith said.
“His rating makes it hard, so there is a bit of travelling involved to find the right race, but he gets in nicely with his weight (56kg), and the track will be firm, which will suit him.
“He gets a few things in his favour, especially with Anna riding well, and I don’t like to get too carried, but there are more positives than negatives going into the race.”
The stable plans to head to Walcha early in a bid to get Johnny Dash settled and relaxed before the Walcha Cup.
Griffith will only take one runner to Walcha, with the Mudgee trainer focused on having a fit and firing team ready for the Central Districts Country Championships qualifier meeting on his home track on Sunday, February 25.
With the $150,000 Central Districts qualifier headlining the meeting, Griffith hopes to have two runners engaged in the main race.
“We’ve got our big Mudgee meeting in a few weeks,” Griffith said.
“We plan to have a couple in, and Musical Affair is an on-speed filly that takes some catching, and Aimpoint was ready to run a nice race in Sydney but drew the car park and was four and five deep the trip, but he’ll also go to that race.”
At Walcha, Friday’s meeting kicks off the club’s two-day carnival, and there is good racing to be had.
Complementing the Walcha Cup are the $50,000 Super Maiden Handicap (1000m), $35,000 Lightning Handicap (1000m), and $35,000 Walcha Graziers Cup Class Two Handicap (1000m).
Saturday’s program is a five-race non-TAB meeting.