Iconic Taree trainer Bob Milligan can’t be on his home track on Sunday to watch his mare Charmmebaby try to win his hometown Cup.
But he will have plenty of racing fans cheering for him.
Seventy-nine-year-old Milligan has been battling ill health since a shocking stable accident three and a half years ago, and was admitted to Taree Hospital earlier this week following another setback.
His son and fellow trainer Glen, who has been doing an outstanding job looking after his and his dad’s horses, will saddle Charmmebaby for the $100,000 Taree Cup (2100m) at the Country Showcase meeting.
It will be the first time the six-year-old daughter of Charm Spirit has stretched beyond 1600m, and connections are keeping their fingers crossed she will handle the assignment in spite of her 61kg co-topweight.
“Charmmebaby ran on nicely at the end of 1600m at Newcastle last Saturday (a Benchmark 78 Handicap won by import Huetor),” Glen Milligan said today.
“She has done great since that race and, if she gets the right run, I feel she will manage the 2100m.
“There appears to be plenty of pace in the Cup with horses such as Margie Bee (61kg co-topweight) and Microna (56kg) to ensure it will be run at a good speed.
“Obviously, it is also an advantage that she is on her home track, where she has won.
“We were a bit surprised she got 61kg (on a 55kg minimum), but it probably reflects that the depth of this year’s field isn’t as strong as in some previous years.”
Grant Buckley, who has ridden Charmmebaby five times for two wins (including the 1350m Jungle Juice Cup on the Beaumont track on October 25), again partners the mare, who is currently $4.40 fixed odds second favorite with TAB.com.au behind Margie Bee ($3.50).
Glen Milligan purchased Charmmebaby on line after a few Sydney mates were keen to become involved in a horse.
“I missed out on a few sales, and eventually paid $14,000 for her,” he said.
“She had raced four times at Hawkesbury for a minor placing, and at the time I thought I had paid a few thousand too much.
“But she has proved me wrong.”
Charmmebaby has now had 21 starts for her new connections, and won six races and notched another five placings for earnings of $272,000.
“She won first-up for us at Taree in June last year, and had a long preparation before a short break as we aimed her at the Country Championships Final at Randwick in April,” Milligan said.
“She ran a terrific race coming from well back to finish third to Art Cadeau and Another One.
“Charmmebaby had a good spell after contesting The Coast (1600m) at Gosford in early May, and our first goal was the Jungle Juice Cup, which she won with 56kg at her third run back.”
Coffs Harbour trainer Joanne Hardy has booked rookie apprentice Bailey Wheeler for her recent Rosehill Country Classic winner Real Time Warrior.
The Newcastle-based youngster’s 4kg claim will lessen the resilient seven-year-old gelding’s weight to 54.5kg – 0.5kg below the minimum.
Wheeler, apprenticed to leading trainer Kris Lees, who began riding only on October 11, rode his first winner (Airstrike) at Goulburn on November 6 and his second (Omar) at Scone last Monday.
Hoofnote: Bob Milligan shared honours with the legendary Bart Cummings when their respective horses Carael Boy and High Cee dead-heated in the 2005 Group 3 Newcastle Gold Cup.
Cummings, famous for his one-liners, shook hands with Bob and quipped: “Half a loaf is better than none.”
Whilst Bob unfortunately won’t be on track on Sunday, Glen Milligan is hoping his father can still take in the race from his hospital bed.
“Mum will probably go up to the hospital, and Dad will be able to watch the race live on her phone,” he said.
“We’re all hoping the mare can win for him.”
Readers can view the Taree Cup fields by clicking here.