Tribute King wins thrilling Hannam Vale Cup

Paul Shailer (right) with connections of Tribute King after his win in Tuesday’s Hannam Vale Cup at Taree’s Manning Valley Race Club.

A thrilling edition of the Hannam Vale Cup was run and won at Taree’s Manning Valley Race Club on Tuesday, and the Paul Shailer-trained Tribute King reigned supreme for connections.  

The Tas Morton-trained Acoustix (Jenny Duggan, $9) led the nine-horse field in the 1609m event, and turning for home, there appeared to be a handful of chances. 

Acoustix looked to have won the race with 20 metres to go, but dashing home on the inside was Tribute King (Ben Looker, $7), which won by a mere 0.02 of a length, while in third and only 0.39 of a length back was Dubbo visitor Sea of Flames (Aaron Bullock, $4) from the Michael Mulholland yard.

“It was a good win,” Shailer commented after the race. 

“He is a horse that has always shown us a fair bit, but he has always been plagued with bad luck, with things like wide gates, unsuitable tracks, and big weights.

“It suited him at Taree as he had the good barrier draw, he was well-weighted, and he was a fit racehorse coming back from a 1800m Highway to 1600m; it was just really nice to win with him.”

Ben Looker got everything out of the Port Macquarie-trained gelding, and Shailer believes the horse goes best for the talented hoop.

“The horse has had eight runs for me since coming from the Sunshine Coast, and he’s won two and Ben has been on both times, so he’s had some luck with him on and he is a class jockey,” he said. 

Shailer was now considering a trip north to Eagle Farm with his enigmatic five-year-old. 

“He will obviously get confidence from it, but he is a horse that needs a few favours,” he said. 

“He needs a good track; something no worse than a (soft) six, and he struggles to carry weight, so he does need a few of those things in his favour, but he is a horse that is suited from 1600m to 2000m; if he can get a soft run, he can be strong late. 

“He is a Class Three horse now, and he might be the kind of horse we can sneak up to Brisbane for one of those Class Three Plates, and at Eagle Farm, it’s always a good surface and a nice, roomy track that will suit him, so we will see if we can find that sort of race in the next few weeks; it will be right in his wheelhouse.”

Shailer landed a winning double at Taree, with Aaron Bullock winning aboard Empress Zou ($1.90) in the1258m Class One Handicap. 

In fact, his team has been firing on all cylinders this season, with Shailer having prepared 25 winners at an impressive 19.5% strike rate. 

In the first three months of 2023, Shailer has landed 10 winners at Grafton, Port Macquarie, Taree, and Armidale, and he was chuffed to be bringing in the wins on a consistent basis, but he believes the stable will only continue to get stronger as some of his youngsters make their way to the track.

“We are going really well and batting well above our average. We only have 25 in work and 25 winners this season,” Shailer said. 

“Obviously we’re picking off little races, but we are trying to be competitive and that’s working.

“We want to win better class races, but we’ve only been opened for 18 months, and most of these horses are second-hand horses from other trainers, and others are horses purchased from Inglis Digital.

“We have only had a small opportunity to purchase yearlings, and over the next two years, our young stock will be hitting the track and hopefully we see some of those better horses coming through.” 

Shailer will look to continue his good run at Kempsey on Saturday and Grafton on Monday. 

For Taree’s results click here