Mayfield-Smith continues strong season with Coffs Harbour double

Noel Mayfield-Smith, Matthew Palmer, and connections of Never Island after their win in the Merv Mercer Memorial Cup at Coffs Harbour on Monday. Image: Coffs Racing.

There’s not much that Noel Mayfield-Smith hasn’t achieved in racing. 

With 11 Group and 14 Listed victories to his name, the legendary trainer prepared Angst for a Group 1 Flight Stakes win in 1993, along with fellow Group 1 winners and million-dollar earners Landsighting (Stradbroke and George Ryder), In Top Swing (Caulfield Guineas), and most recently, Famous Seamus (Kingsford-Smith Cup). 

These days, Noel and his wife Emma have moved from their Hawkesbury base to Coffs Harbour, and they love the coastal life, with 22 boxes at their disposal and around 16 horses in work.  

“We’ve raced in and won big races, and that was enjoyable, but winning those races was never the priority,” Mayfield-Smith told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.

“The horse is always my priority; it doesn’t matter if I’m racing in a Group 1 or a Maiden at Coffs Harbour. 

“I treat them like a football team, and that’s how I train them. I want to know them individually, keep a close eye on them, and give them everything they need to succeed.

“As long as they are fit, happy, and healthy, that is the most important thing.”

Since moving to Coffs Harbour in 2021, the stable has tasted some success as they’ve got a feel for the region and what was on offer.

“The attraction of Coffs Harbour was the beach and the big spacious track, plus we’ve got great facilities,” he said. 

“I’m 65 going on 66, but I still get in and do ten boxes, and I’m up at 3.15 am every morning as I always have, and I’m at work at 4 am, and nothing’s changed.

“I’ve got room for 22, and then I’d like to have three or four with the right pre-trainers, but I want to know every time a horse sneezes.

“I want to know them intimately and get the best out of them, and I think 22 is a good number.”

Now settled in at Coffs Harbour, Mayfield-Smith has hit the ground running in 2023/24, training ten winners at a 21.7% win rate, which includes five victories from his past 12 starters. 

“There’s no secret to our recent success,” he replied when asked about his team’s winning run. 

“It’s just the case of a better team overall; they are horses we’ve had right through, but they have taken time. 

“The ones that are winning have always shown us ability, and those results are starting to come now.

“It is starting to happen for us now, and I’ve got a couple of nice clients from Sydney with well-bred horses, and I think we’ll continue to have some success”.

On Monday, the team trained their first winning double at headquarters, with Matthew Palmer guiding Never Island ($5.50) to victory in the Merv Mercer Cup Benchmark 58 Handicap (1600m). 

In the following race, Danny Peisley was in the saddle, and he helped Scotland to a third consecutive win when taking out the Country Boosted Benchmark 58 Handicap (1300m).

“They are two horses we’ve had from the beginning,” he said.

“Never Island and Scotland both arrived here untried, and they were new material that we were able to work with, and we’ve given them the time necessary, and we are seeing the rewards of that.”

Scotland is fast becoming a 2024 Country Championships hopeful, with the four-year-old being set for the $150,000 Northern Rivers qualifier at Lismore on February 17.

“To be quite truthful, I thought about the Country Championships about 12 months ago when I first started working Scotland along,” he said. 

“When he came here, he had a lot of things that needed to be ironed out, and he had some quite quirky ways, and it took a while to get him all organised and sort through it all. 

“I probably thought this year would be the one if he hit his straps, and we’ve run into a few bumps along the way, but he has come into form now. 

“I will probably take him to Newcastle on the third of February and see how he goes, and if he goes well, I’d certainly give him his chance in the qualifier.”

Mayfield-Smith and his team turn their attention to Tuncurry-Forster on Monday with two chances going around. 

Raymond Spokes rides Regina’s Girl in the Maiden Plate (1405m), and Zac Wadick is aboard Cardsharp in the Class One/Maiden Plate (1605m).