Victorian trainer Ron Hockley will venture from Seymour to NSW on Saturday, with his team of three set to raid the Ardlethan Picnic Racing Club’s meeting.
Hockley will team up with Breanna Bourke, with Bayfury taking on the $9000 Ardlethan Picnic Cup, while Lightning Rider will contest the 1000m Open Trophy Handicap and Ambusher will compete in the 1600m Class One Trophy.
Hockley, who was planning on racing closer to home at Alexandra, said the NSW trip looked more appealing, given that his three runners would gain a start.
“I nominated for Alexandra but they won’t get a run there and I was in at Kyneton on Thursday, but I looked at Ardlethan and I saw the good prizemoney and thought I’d go there,” Hockley said.
“I have raced at Hillston, Leeton, Narrandera a few times and Hay and I thought why not Ardlethan.”
It will be Hockley’s first trip to Ardlethan, and he was looking forward to the adventure, hinting he may even stay the night.
“I had two that I was going to take, but I thought I have three ready to race, so why not take the three up there and make a day of it,” Hockley said.
“It will be my first time there, and I’m not sure what facilities they have, but I will have to contact them and work something out and I might head up on the Friday and stay the night.”
Bayfury, a 100-start veteran and four-time winner, won well at Hanging Rock four starts back, and two starts ago, the 11-year-old finished second at Yea.
“I think he will run well,” Hockley said.
“He ran second in an Open Handicap at Yea two starts ago and that day; he led, and they set the track record in that race, and then he led nearly all the way in a tougher class race at Yarra Valley last start and he should find this race easier.”
The Victorian trainer expected Bayfury to take up the running in the 1600m event.
“On a dirt track; he will go to the front, and I give him a pretty fair chance of winning,” Hockley said.
Lightning Rider will head into the five-furlong sprint having run second at Hanging Rock four starts ago and second at Stony Creek two starts back.
“Lightning Rider is my best chance,” Hockley said.
“He is a pretty smart horse, and he has placed in harder races.”
Ambusher, a 76-start veteran, arrives as a last-start winner in the 1600m Class One Handicap, and Hockley was hopeful he would go on with the job and win his second-ever race.
“Ambusher has to be a chance after winning last start at Yea, but he is coming back in distance,” Hockley said.
Hockey is certainly a character, with the veteran trainer still riding his own work, and he explained that he simply loved racing.
“I am 72 and still ride my own track work,” Hockley said.
“I rode these three at trackwork this morning (Tuesday) and I love picnic racing.
“My intro into racing was at Yea picnic races when I was 8 or 9 and I’ve loved it ever since.”
The Seymour-based conditioner explained how he ended up acquiring the services of the Coleambally-based Bourke, with Hockley returning a favour.
“Just after Covid started, I went to Leeton with Lightning Rider and Ambusher and we went up on the Friday and Brianna arranged for me to stay in the boxes on the trotting track,” Hockley said.
“She did everything for me. She mucked out their boxes, had their water done, strapped my horses at the races and I told her I owed her one.
“When I saw this meeting, I chased around for her number and told her I would put her on the three of them because I owed her one and I wanted to honour that promise.”
Hockley and Bourke will take on an entertaining six-race-program, where there is $35,000 in prizemoney on offer.
There is plenty happening off track too, and readers can click here to find out more about the Ardlethan meeting.
To view nominations, readers can click here.