Osborne’s northern pilgrimage reaping rewards

Stuart Osborne and Lolita Gold after winning the Wingham Cup. Photo: Trackside Photography.

Neil Osborne has made it a habit of heading north during the colder months, with the veteran trainer happy to get away from the sometimes-harsh Canberra winters.

Osborne usually only takes a small team when racing at the Grafton and Coffs Harbour carnivals, but this year, he has a handy team of eight gallopers with him at his temporary base in Coffs Harbour. 

“We have come up here over the years. Most years we come up with one or two, but this year we took eight up,” Osborne said. 

“They are racing on the synthetic at home, and these horses where ready to go and we thought we would take a big team.”

Working alongside his son Stuart Osborne and trackwork rider Todd Bailey, the team arrived at Mick O’Neill’s property in Coffs Harbour on June 1, and since then, they have been on fire, starting 10 runners for three winners. 

Lolita Gold made it a winning start on June 7 when greeting the judge first in the Wingham Cup at Taree – Chad Lever getting the job done in the saddle. 

On June 18, Osborne had his second winner when Ronny Rock Art won the 1000m Maiden Handicap at Coffs Harbour with Dylan Gibbons on board this time. 

The Canberra trainer then had his second cup victory and third winner during his northern pilgrimage, with Rockness Angel, who had Georgina in the saddle, winning the Bellingen Cup at Bowraville on Saturday. 

Osborne was the first to admit his gallopers were enjoying their time away from home.

“It is a good start and the others, they might not have won, but they have raced really well,” Osborne said.

“The trip has been good. It just gets them out of the Canberra winter for a bit. It’s been four or five degrees at home and it’s 20 degrees up here.

“They are enjoying it. You can see their coats are a lot of brighter, they still have a bit of a woolly coat because we got into the winter before we left, but they all seem happy.”

Osborne has been working his horses at Coffs Harbour, and he plans to stay up north for the next two months.

“We work them on the Coffs track, and we will stay up here until the end of the Coffs carnival at the end of August – we are looking at the Coffs Harbour Cup for Lolita Gold.”

The Osborne camp after Lolita Gold won the Wingham Cup at Taree. Photo: Trackside Photography.

The stable has been busy, with a half a dozen gallopers still in work in Canberra, but Osborne said it helped having a good team.

“We are non-stop. I’ve still got six in work at home, but we have 100 horses on the place at any one time. We spell a lot of racehorses, and we have 20-odd brood mares of our own,” Osborne said.

“It’s a bit difficult, but I have a good team behind me, my wife and my other son is at home, and they are getting along fine.”

The in-form stable was eyeing more success away from home, and Osborne believed it was a little easier to win a race in Northern NSW.

“I think it is probably a little bit easier up here; the class of horse is probably not quite the same,” Osborne said. 

“You run into the odd Kris Lees and Paul Perry horse, but back at home, if you go to Goulburn or Canberra, the race could be filled with city class trainers.”

Osborne will take two runners to Clarence River Jockey Club on Sunday, with Lolita Gold well in the market in the $52,000 South Grafton Cup, while Ronnie Rock Art goes around in the 1005m Class One. 

“I think Lolita Gold will go well, she was good the other day and it looks a nice race,” Osborne said. 

Blaike McDougall will then journey up north on Wednesday and Thursday, teaming up with Osborne who has runners nominated for both the Ramornie and Grafton Cup meetings at Clarence River Jockey Club.

“Blaike will come up and ride a couple for us on Wednesday and Thursday and hopefully they all run well,” Osborne said.