The deferred Coonabarabran Cup meeting will be held on Friday, and Tamworth trainer Sue Grills appears to have major players in both feature races on the eight-race Showcase program.
Old stager Attila resumes from a 30-week spell when jumping from gate seven in the 1100m Imperial Hotel Showcase Sprint, and with Ben Looker in the saddle, Grills is predicting a strong showing.
“He usually runs well fresh, and we are hoping he will run a good race,” Grills said.
“The track will be pretty hard, and it won’t play in his favour, but there is a bit of speed in the race and all of his best wins have been where he has come from dead last.”
A veteran of 45 starts for eight wins and 15 placings, the I Am Invincible gelding is more than capable in this class, and he proved recently that he still has plenty left in the tank when running second in a 900m trial to the Highway Handicap bound Just In Reach at Tamworth on December 14.
According to Grills, Attila is as feisty as ever, and she is hoping to see the old boy return to his best form this preparation.
“He was a bit fresh in that trial, but it was a good run,” Grills said.
“He is still feeling good. He’s aways been a funny horse, and at the races he can be the silliest thing ever, and while he has improved a little bit, he can be hard to handle at the races.
“He had a pretty ordinary prep last time, but we are hoping he will find a bit of his old form.”
Grills will team up with Looker again in the Coonabarabran Bowling Club Coonabarabran Cup, with Group Think jumping from gate three in the $75,000, 1600m feature race.
“I think he will run a really good race,” Grills said.
“He had to work in the Armidale Cup and that gave him no hope, but he still boxed on well and his run at Tamworth before that was quite a good run.
“We expect him to get a sit just behind the speed and if he does that, I think he can run a really good race.”
Previously trained by Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, Toby and Trent Edmonds, Edward O’Rourke, Michelle Payne, and David Joice, the now six-year-old has raced against a good calibre of horse over the years, winning from 1590m to 2200m, and Grills was excited to have him in the stable.
“The women that owns him, she bought him online and she sent him to me, and he’s a nice horse, and he can get over a bit of ground and I’m looking forward to finding some good races for him,” Grills said.
It could be a big day for the Grills yard at Coonabarabran, with Looker also riding Allande (gate 1) in the 1200m Maiden Handicap and Maly Malt (gate 3) in the 1600m Class Three Handicap.
“They are all each-way chances,” Grills said.
“We have Ben on them. I rang Drew (Smith) to find out if he was coming out for the meeting, and we managed to get him on all of them, which turned out good for us.”
Grills will back up at Royal Randwick on Saturday, with recent trial winner Just In Reach to be ridden by Dylan Gibbons in the $120,000, 1000m Class Three Highway Handicap.
The five-year-old was a good winner at Coonamble on October 28 and Scone on November 14, and after a freshen-up and trial win at Tamworth, Grills believes he can still run a good race from the wide gate (16).
“They are only starting 13, and if the emergencies don’t run, he will be starting from (gate) 10, and the 1100m start has a good run to the corner, and well we have waited five weeks and can’t scratch him now,” Grills laughed.
For the moment, Grills will focus on the Coonabarabran meeting, and for full fields, readers can click here.
Coonabarabran tips, trials, and tribulations
Race 1: 3 Salt City – $13 (Best Value)
The Craig Martin-trained galloper is second-up from a 210-day spell, but he trialled nicely at Tamworth, finishing second over 900m on December 14.
The draw is a worry but there is already some early money about, with Salt City crunched in from 19s to 13s.
Race 2: 10 Ballistic Beauty – $7.50
This is a very open maiden, but trainer Stephen Jones typically does well at Coonabarabran, and he’s booked leading hoop Grant Buckley.
Ballistic Beauty resumed at Scone over 1000m on December 9, finishing fourth when beaten just shy of three lengths, and second-up she should stripper fitter and be better suited to the six furlongs.
Race 3: 2 Maly Malt – $3.80
It’s hard to look past good form, and this Sue Grills-trained Maly Malt is in a good patch of it at the moment.
She was ultra-impressive at Quirindi last month, and while it is a while between runs, she did trial at Tamworth over 1000m on December 14, and she is every chance of running them along in this race from the good draw.
Race 4: 6 Rubi Air – $4.80
There will be some real speed on in the early stages of this race, and the Brett Robb-trained Rubi Air will get a decent chance to take a sit behind the early leaders and she should be ready to pounce.
First-up form is the only worry but happy to take on trust in this open event.
Race 5: 6 Very Sharp – $2.70 (Best Bet)
The well-named Very Sharp looks to find a nice race here for Stephen Jones.
More than capable type that has been racing good horses at the provincials and in town, and while this is a good open class country sprint, she does look to have class on his side.
The good draw helps and all things being equal, she just wins.
Race 6: 11 Time To Dazzle – $23
This is an interesting race, with potentially five or six horses wanting to find the lead or at least a prominent position.
I am looking for something to come on after the speed battle and the Sally Torrens-trained Time To Dazzle can run a big race at good odds when second-up.
Race 7: 3 Beckford – $5
The Troy O’Neil-trained Beckford has been racing very well without winning this preparation.
He ran a very good second in the Armidale Cup last start, and he drops back to a distance that probably suits him better in the Coonabarabran Cup.
He’s drawn well and all being equal he will be thereabouts when the whips are cracking.
Race 8: 8 Overextend – $5
Overextend is one of Rod Northam’s Country Championships hopefuls and he deserves respect first-up.
He has raced well fresh without winning in the past, but he was racing in Highway Handicap grade before going to the paddock. This is easier and he gets a golden opportunity.