Tumbarumba jockey Molly Bourke will guide the locally-owned and Canberra-trained Stand Your Ground in Friday’s Queen of the South at Murrumbidgee Turf Club.
The five-year-old, which won the Queen of the South Prelude in 2021 for Norm Gardner and local owners Justin Shanahan, Jeff Kelleher and Bobby Kite, went on to finish seventh, beaten 3.42 lengths by Splendiferous in the $75,000 feature.
Under the guidance of apprentice Molly Bourke, the Norm Gardner-trained Fighting Sun mare repeated her efforts in the Prelude late last month, flashing from 16 lengths last to win by 2.33 lengths from the Tumbarumba-owned and Gary Colvin-trained Carnival Miss in second and Irish Dancer for Barbara Joseph, and Paul and Matt Jones in third.
Today, connections draw gate 9 and with Bourke’s two-kilogram claim, the talented mare will only have to carry 57.5kg.
Stand Your Ground has made a name for herself as a backmarker and strong finisher, with all her wins arriving after frantic finishes, but Bourke believes her win in last month’s Prelude was the best of her career.
“If you watch all her wins, she only normally gets in by a nose, but the other day, I had plenty of horse left under the saddle and she wasn’t at her top and she still won easy,” Bourke said.
Bourke, who has only ridden the mare twice, admitted she had a very unusual racing pattern.
“She actually gets you worried,” Bourke said.
“Because she doesn’t travel at all mid-race, and you can’t get her to go forward, and because you get so far back, you think you are out of it and way too far back to catch the leaders.
“But then she flows so easily over the ground and it doesn’t feel like she is going fast at all but she makes up the ground easy.”
The 19-year-old hoop has a knack for riding on-pace types, boasting a good judge of speed up front, but she said it was all the more exciting when winning on a backmarker like Stand Your Ground.
“When you come from last, it gives you so much of a thrill,” Bourke said.
“You are praying that the line is further and further away, but when you are leading, you are praying the line comes sooner,” Bourke laughed.
“Coming home and going past the horses; it’s awesome and such a great experience.”
Stand Your Ground won’t have it all her own way, and she meets a very strong field in the 1400m event, but Bourke believes if the pace is on in the early stages, she can win.
“I think she can win,” Bourke said.
“Off her previous run, she obviously has the ability but the speed needs to be on.
“With her racing pattern, she wants them to go quick, but if the speed is on, like it should be, she will be very close.”
Bourke, who recently made the move from Wagga to Canberra, has been riding winners and getting opportunities all over the region, and she was pleased to have a good book of rides over the two-day Wagga Gold Cup Carnival.
“I never expected to get the number of rides I’m getting but my manager has done a terrific job and has given me some good chances,” Bourke said.
“I didn’t ride at the carnival last year, so to get some good rides, it is really exciting.”
The Murrumbidgee Turf Club two-day Wagga Gold Cup carnival kicked off today, with the running of the $200,000 Wagga Town Plate.
On Friday, the $200,000 Wagga Gold Cup headlines a bumper eight-race-program, which includes the $75,000 Queen of the South and $75,000 Murrumbidgee Turf Club Guineas.