Vella out to win Cootamundra Picnic Cup following Crookwell success

Gratz Vella with Crucial Witness.

Gratz Vella will trek to Cootamundra on Saturday as he looks to win another Picnic Cup with Crucial Witness. 

Racing at Crookwell on March 9, the Canberra galloper won the Funny Hill Cup when ridden by Michael Wade. 

After the six-year-old finished down the track in a 1300m Benchmark 82 Handicap at Canberra on March 29, Vella has decided to try the Star Witness at the picnics again. 

Wade, who recently moved to Canberra, is again in the saddle for one of his two rides on the Southern Districts program, and Vella is happy to have his services. 

“He’s going really good, settled in well, and is liking it. He does a fair bit with Rob Potter and rides some work here and there,” Vella said. 

“She is going well, and Mikey rode her this week and said she is feeling good, and everything is spot-on.”

Crucial Witness is a talented, although enigmatic mare, having won five times in 40 starts. 

She had great success early in her career, winning three of her first ten starts before eventually triumphing in the $75,000 Queen of the South at Wagga in May 2022. 

She was nearly two years between wins when taking out the Funny Hill Cup, and Vella explained that she needed to have her own way in races. 

“She has got to have a free run, and once she stops and starts, she is hopeless,” Vella said. 

“Every time she has won a race, she has raced three or four wide and done her own thing.

“You can’t ride her like a pretty horse, and once you start holding her up, she goes back, and that’s why Mikey won on her at Crookwell. 

“She wanted to go at the half-mile, and he let her go, and she didn’t stop.”

This could very well be Crucial Witness’ last preparation before heading to the breeding barn, and Vella would love to win another race with his mare. 

“She’s always had ability, but there are some issues with her,” Vella said. 

“She’s a bit long in the tooth now, so this could be her last prep before we sell her as a broodmare, so hopefully we can win another race or two.”

While there is some wet weather around the state, the Cootamundra Picnic Race Club remains positive they’ll race on Saturday. 

The $8000 Cootamundra Picnic Cup headlines the club’s six-race program.