John Bourke has only had his training licence for the best part of 12 months, preparing his first runner back in September of 2020.
In an incredible story, the 73-year-old, who was clerk of the course at Moree Race Club for the past decade, has since had some good success on track, with smart galloper Vertical winning three times and running two minor placings in six starts.
The five-year-old changed hands multiple times before finding a home with the Moree trainer, and after wins at Coonabarabran and Moree, the Proisir gelding will be set for Saturday’s 1280m Collie Hotel Cup at Gilgandra.
As is usually the case, Jodi Worley will take the ride, and Bourke joked that they had drawn the visitor’s draw ahead of the four-hour trek, with Vertical sent to jump from gate 10 in the $17,000 feature event.
“We definitely got the visitor’s draw,” Bourke laughed.
“It’s an awkward barrier draw but I would like to hope he would be there somewhere at the finish.”
It is a big step up in class, with the Moree galloper coming up against the likes of Classy Rebel and Patrick May – two runners touted as possible ‘The Kosciuszko’ chances – but Bourke said his charge would be ready for the challenge.
“If we can overcome the barrier draw, we should be in the mix,” Bourke said.
“It will all depend on the way the race is run, and if they do go quick, it will suit him, but if it is slow and he is caught wide that will make it hard.”
Worley is expected to give Vertical a soft ride in behind the pace with connections hoping the leaders go out hard and fast, allowing for back markers to fly home.
“At Gilgandra, you need to be close to the front runners or you won’t be there at the finish,” Bourke said.
“She (Worley) normally rides him pretty cold and tries to stay in touch and then just finishes off the last 100-150m, and we will probably do the same at Gilgandra.”
Bourke and Worley will team up again at Gilgandra with Myth set to contest the 1100m Benchmark 50 Handicap.
The Choisir mare has finished down the track in recent runs at Walgett and Moree and Bourke expected his five-year-old to finish closer to the front this time around.
“I think she will be improved from her last run, but she is coming from barrier nine and probably needs a more open track,” Bourke said.
“She should go a lot better.”
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 statewide lockdown means no crowds are allowed on course, and President Jason Tate was disappointed for the hardworking committee.
“We have a new committee and we only have half a dozen people that turn up to set up and do all the jobs, so it makes it harder when there is no crowd,” Tate said.
“We will be relying on that TAB turnover and support from punters.”
In a positive for the club, Gilgandra Jockey Club are already putting their minds to work ahead of the January Gilgandra Cup carnival.
“Hopefully we have a few fresh ideas for that New Year’s carnival,” Tate said.
“We want to make it a family fun event for that two-day carnival with fashions, water slides and all of that.”
For the moment, attention will turn to Saturday’s Collie Cup and punters and racing fans can get behind the club by having a flutter, with racing set to jump at 12.46pm.