Cessnock trainer Jeremy Sylvester will make the nearly four-hour drive to Mendooran on Saturday, and he boasts a good crop of chances at the always-popular Western Districts meeting.
Sylvester, who admitted to a few visits to Mendooran’s famed Royal Hotel, has never raced at Mendooran, and he was looking forward to the opportunity.
“I haven’t raced there before,” Sylvester said.
“I have been through there and been to Mendooran pub on the way to race meetings and on the way back, and I knew they had a race meeting.
“When I realised that they had a meeting on this year, I thought I could go with a few and see how it went.”
Sylvester will have dynamic duo Drachenfels (Zara Lewis) and Luff (Kacie Adams) contesting the time-honoured Mendooran Cup over the 1200m.
The Benchmark 66 Handicap has attracted a good field of 12 starters and 4 emergencies, and Sylvester conceded that it would be a very tough race to win.
“It is a good field,” Sylvester said.
“You go to them meetings, and you might get a small field and be a chance of getting away with an easy one, but on Saturday it is a really good country cup field
“Drachenfels (gate 2) is first-up from a spell and he has a good barrier, and the young girl (Zara Lewis) rides him, so he gets a bit off his back, and he will get back a bit but there will no doubt be plenty of speed on and he will be doing his best work late.
“Luff (gate 8) will be about mid-field and will hopefully be ready to pounce on the leaders, but it won’t be easy because it is a strong race.”
Prior to the running of the 2022 Mendooran Cup, Sylvester and Adams will team up when The Phantom Bantam (gate 7) contests the 800m Class Two Handicap and again when Sportsman (gate 1) races in the 1000m Benchmark 45 Handicap.
“They’re chances and they can both run good races,” Sylvester said.
“Both are first-up from spell and with the wet weather, it’s been hard finding them a race, but we get a chance at Mendooran.”
A huge crowd is expected to attend Mendooran on Saturday, with the club racing for the first time since 2019, and Sylvester said he always looked forward to attending these once-a-year meetings.
“They’re good race meetings to go to,” Sylvester said.
“You get those good crowds, and all the country people are out for the day, and you never see anyone having a bad time at those country race meetings.”
Punters and racing fans will be spoilt for choice on Saturday, with the six-race non-TAB program attracting 76 acceptors.
Racing kicks off at 1pm and gates open at 11am and for more information on the meeting, readers can click here.
For full fields, readers can click here.
As a country boy at heart, I have fond memories of growing up in Mendooran in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Dad worked on surrounding farms and travelled throughout the state for seasonal work, while mum was a cook at the Mendooran RSL and Royal Hotel at different times.
Being in a small country town, I enjoyed playing rugby league just down the road for Dunedoo, playing cricket in the summer, going finishing, swimming, and camping, and getting up to all sorts of mischief.
Big crowds weren’t the norm in Mendooran, so there was always an air anticipation and excitement when the annual show and race meeting came around.
While only a pup at the time, I remember two things as clear as day from the 2003 race Mendooran meeting.
One being when the late Danny Frahm won the Mendooran Cup on the Mark Milton-trained Swordly.
My old man – a huge Greg Ryan fan – was adamant the champion country jockey would win the feature on Muharaa’s Flight after having already ridden two winners on the program, but Frahm got the job done on the despised 26/1 outsider; funnily enough a horse my mum had backed because of the jockey’s striking yellow silks.
The second memory being the efforts of a young Kathy O’Hara.
Being a young bloke and not having seen many genuine stunners at that point of my life, watching O’Hara go to work and win two races on the day is a memory that will live with me until my final days.
I might not live anywhere close to Mendooran these days, and my trips back ‘home’ are less frequent than I would like, but I do hold the small country town and the Mendooran race meeting close to my heart, and I would like to think my introduction to racing in such a unique area of the world spurred on what has grown to be a genuine love of country racing.