NSW Picnic Champion Series runner-by-runner Preview

Leandro Ribeiro and the Connie Greig-trained Individualist combined to win at Cobar earlier this season. Photo: Racing Photography.

The 2021/22 Picnic Champion Series final is scheduled to finally be run and won at Dubbo Turf Club on Saturday after false starts at Coonamble and Coonabarabran in recent weeks. 

The 12 starters and 4 emergencies earned their chance to race for $50,000 in prizemoney after competing on the NSW Picnic Racing Association circuit, with horses earning points for contesting picnic races. 

The Gavin Groth-trained Danspur finished top of the point’s tally and appears to be one of the horses to beat, while Dubbo trainer Connie Greig qualified an incredible 10 runners, which includes seven starters, and her best chances look to be trio Linden Tree, Valadyium, and emergency Hemsted. 

NSW Country and Picnic Racing Editor Jeff Hanson has run his eye over the field, offering his two cents on every runner. 

Tip: Linden Tree ($7) to win just ahead of Would Be King ($11).

Trifecta/First Four numbers: 3-6-8-9-12.

1. Billy Bent Ear (2)

Trainer: Connie Greig 

Jockey: Breanna Bourke 

Weight: 65kg

Record: 122:12-19-14

What we think: The old marvel boasts a good record, having earned connections over $220,000 during his storied career.  

The Bon Hoffa gelding loves the short course trips, having won from 800m to 1120m. 

If this was a sprint race, he would be one of two or three horses to beat, but this event is over seven furlongs, and it is hard to see him finishing in the top-half of the field.   

2. Broo Boss (16)

Trainer: Peter Kirby 

Jockey: Todd Bailey

Weight: 65kg

Record: 63:8-4-11

What we think: A really interesting runner that could spring a surprise at odds in this event. 

The eight-year-old is better over more ground, with his eight wins arriving between 1600m and 1850m, but he has been freshened up for this race, and he can handle a rain-affected track. 

The 1400m is probably a furlong too short, but if there is a lot of pace in the early stages, he will be hitting the line strongly. 

3. Danspur (3)

The Gavin Groth (right) trained Danspur (pictured) finished on top of the NSWPRA Picnic Champion Series points score table. Photo: Bradley Photos.

Trainer: Gavin Groth

Jockey: Grant Seccombe 

Weight: 65kg

Record: 57:8-8-8

What we think: Definitely one of the best picnic horses during the 2022/23 season. 

The Gunnedah galloper won picnic races at Coonamble and Gunnedah earlier this season before winning the Mallawa Picnic Cup in June and the Wean Picnic Cup in July, which meant he topped the points table.

Strong at 1400m, can win on a rain-affected track and from gate three, he is one of, if not the major player in this event.

4. Equilibrium (11)

Trainer: Connie Greig 

Jockey: John Wilson

Weight: 65kg

Record: 81:7-8-7

What we think: Equilibrium finished sixth in the 2020/21 picnic final last year, which was arguably a stronger race. 

Consistent type that doesn’t win a lot with the nine-year-old earning her way into the final after contesting many picnic races.

The nine-year-old would be a big chance at her best but she appears to be winding down her career and it’s hard to see her finishing in the top half of the field again.  

5. Get Up Alby (6)

Trainer: Connie Greig 

Jockey: Mick Wade

Weight: 65kg

Record: 69:4-10-10

What we think: A consistent old stager who doesn’t win all that often but the eight-year-old is usually thereabouts, winning four times and placing on another 20 occasions in 69 starts.

At his best, the Magic Albert gelding could surprise punters and run a bold race at good odds when on top of the ground. 

6. Knee Slapper (10)

Emily Waters guided the Rodney Robb-trained Knee Slapper to victory in the Harry Hart Memorial Picnic Cup at the Back O’ Bourke race meeting. Photos: Racing Photography.

Trainer: Allan Prisk

Jockey: Emily Waters

Weight: 65kg

Record: 39:3-4-3

What we think: The Bourke Picnic Cup winner came out and won back-to-back races at Nyngan and Carinda in July before a small freshen up and a change of stable, with the seven-year-old moving from the Rodney Robb yard to Allan Prisk’s care. 

The Cobar galloper has since finished third and fourth at Cobar respectively but it’s hard to see him winning this race.

7. Linden Tree (5)

Trainer: Connie Greig

Jockey: Wayne Wheatley 

Weight: 65kg

Record: 29:4-3-4

What we think: Arguably Connie Greig’s best chance of winning the 2022/23 Picnic Champion Series. 

The five-year-old is suited to 1400m, has recently raced well at Dubbo, and can handle some cut out of the ground. 

The Redoute’s Choice gelding was too good earlier this year, winning picnic races at Condobolin, Tottenham, and Tullibigeal and has since returned in good form, and most recently hit the line strongly when running third in a 1300m Benchmark 58 Handicap at Dubbo. 

The draw is good, and Wayne Wheatley is an experienced hoop in these bigger fields.  

8. Pyrmont (12)

Trainer: Peter Sinclair 

Jockey: Ricky Blewitt

Weight: 65kg

Record: 31:3-4-6

What we think: Pyrmont looks to be another major player but the 1400m is a question mark.

The Moree galloper has only won three races and is a noted sprinter, winning the Moree Picnic Bracelet over 950m. 

The five-year-old won well over 1300m at Moree last preparation, and most recently finished third in a Benchmark 70 1400m at Inverell. 

9. Would Be King (15)

Anaelle Gangotena and Would Be King following their win in the Cootamundra Picnic Cup.

Trainer: Doug Gorrel

Jockey: Anaelle Gangotena

Weight: 65kg

Record: 50:5-9-10

What we think: For a long while now, I have considered Would Be King as the horse to beat in the final but it remains to be seen if the eight-year-old can handle the wide draw.

The Grenfell and Cootamundra Picnic Cup winner is a genuine TAB class horse that can handle a rain-affected track.

He can race on the pace, and he will be thereabouts in the final furlong if he and Anaelle Gangotena can settle into a good position from the wide draw. 

10. Brooklyn Star (14)

Trainer: Connie Greig

Jockey: Shaun Cooper 

Weight: 63kg

Record: 28:6-4-1

What we think: As consistent and talented Brooklyn Star is, she will find it hard to run out the seven furlongs in the final.

In 28 starts, the Hinchinbrook mare has won six times, with all of her victories arriving between the distances of 1000m and 1200m.

She has been tried over 1300m twice, finishing second and fourth respectively. The six-year-old is definitely racing well enough to figure in a race like this, but the longer distance will more than likely be an issue. 

11. Gossip (7)

Trainer: Connie Greig 

Jockey: N/A

Weight: 63kg

Record: 48:7-4-8

What we think: Gossip is a good picnic galloper on top of the ground, winning the Ardlethan and Tomingley Picnic Cups, which followed a good win at Condobolin. 

Still, with Dubbo expected to be a soft 7 or thereabouts, and with the seven-year-old not having won in 12 tries on rain-impacted surfaces, it is hard to see her figuring unless there is a major upgrade by tomorrow. 

12. Valadyium (8)

Valadyium. Photo: Racing Photography.

Trainer: Connie Greig 

Jockey: Leandro Ribeiro 

Weight: 63kg

Record: 49-7-4-5

What we think: The Shamus Award mare was nearly impossible to beat earlier this season, winning the Bedgerabong and Condobolin Picnic Cups before running third at Tottenham and second at Tullibigeal. 

The six-year-old made it a third picnic cup victory back in May when taking out the Cobar feature. 

She races well third-up, and she is right in this race, especially after Leandro Ribeiro was named for the ride, giving every indication that Connie Greig and connections believe Valadyium is the stable’s best chance. 

13. Merdeka (9)

Trainer: Connie Greig 

Jockey: N/A

Weight: 63kg

Record: 36:4-5-5

What we think: The Cobar Picnic Cup winner is a capable type and a two-time winner at Dubbo. 

The six-year-old runs a genuine 1400m and probably gets better over more ground, but if she gains a start and the pace is on, she will be hitting the line at odds.

14. Watermelon Wine (13)

Trainer: Debbie Prest

Jockey: N/A

Weight: 65kg

Record: 23: 2-1-2

What we think: Better suited over five and six furlongs, the well-named Watermelon Wine will inject some pace into the race if he gets a start but the 1400m looks a bridge too far for this six-year-old.

15. Hemsted (1)

Trainer: Connie Greig 

Jockey: N/A

Weight: 65kg

Record: 69: 8-9-7

What we think: It will be interesting to see what Connie Greig does here with Hemsted.

The seven-year-old looks a genuine winning chance in the final, especially after his dominant victory over the likes of Equilibrium and Get Up Alby in the 1400m Open Trophy at Nyngan earlier this month. 

The seven-year-old boasts good TAB form, with wins at Kembla Grange (1300m), the Gold Coast (1200m), Bathurst (1400m), and Port Macquarie (1506m).  

If he starts, he is probably favourite, but the stars would have to align and Greig would be forced to scratch several other runners for it to happen. 

16. Individualist (4)

Trainer: Connie Greig 

Jockey: N/A

Weight: 65kg

Record: 28:3-2-1

What we think: I would like to see Individualist gain a start after drawing gate four, with the six-year-old winning three races in her previous five starts. 

1400m won’t be an issue and with an improving track, he could be smoky if he does gain a start