One of the premier racedays in country New South Wales comes around on Thursday- Grafton Cup Day. The feature race is the $150,000 Maclean Bowling Club Grafton Cup (2350m). Taree galloper Southern Shimmer is the early favourite ahead of the Patinack stayer Shamardashing and the 2011 Grafton Cup winner Warrior Within.
The support card is superb, with races like the Sir James Kirby Handicap (1000m), the Sky Racing Mothers Gift (1400m) and the NBN Inglis Bonus Plate (1200m) all looking great from a betting perspective thanks to big fields and plenty of depth.
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Race One: Grafton District Services Club Handicap (C2) 1200m Form Guide
Back Me: Tricky race to kick off the day. I’ll go with the topweight Bounding Along. Resumed at Rockhampton during their racing carnival and never really got into the race after missing the start and sticking to the rails. Much better second up record, Colless takes over and strikes a winnable race.
Don’t Back Me: Annexation resumed on Sunday and broke his maiden status in a class one where she sat outside the speed and took the whole straight to win. Horrible barrier and the quick back-up is a worry.
Big Danger: Za One is a speedy filly who’ll prove hard to catch. Stuck on well last week at Port Macquarie after leading on a very heavy track. A return to fine conditions helps and the drop in class is an aid. Hard to beat.
Roughie: Langeline has the rails draw and should be right in the finish after a dominant win on the Toowoomba Cushion. He’ll give plenty of cheek but the last 100m will test.
Race Two: Sportsman Handicap (C2) 1200m Form Guide
Back Me: Splitzer created a big impression in his New South Wales debut where he broke his maiden status by seven lengths in near track record time. He then raced last week at this track and distance and started $1.30 where he sat outside a hot speed and got grabbed in the final 100m and held on for third. He steps up in grade hence a much needed weight relief. He has the pain barrier so he’ll get the gun run and prove hard to beat.
Don’t Back Me: Harley Dawn is a handy galloper, but I suspect he might need this run and the wide barrier makes it very difficult for him to win.
Big Danger: Hidden Rock has been freshened up since finishing fourth at the Gold Coast after settling well back and making up good ground. Gold Coast form does generally hold up and the colt does perform well when produced fresh.
Roughie: Lord Bryn is an ultra consistent horse who is always a must for exotics. Been given a short break after battling on wet ground on his home track at Coffs Harbour. An upset chance.
Race Three: Village Green Hotel Handicap (Benchmark 60) 1000m Form Guide
Back Me: Best bet of the day for me is Huckleberry Dane. I was really impressed by his effort at the Gold Coast last weekend where he sat three deep on a hot speed and was only beaten in the last two strides. Got a wide barrier again, but Robert Thompson takes over and all I’m hoping for is cover. If he gets that, he’ll win.
Don’t Back Me: Seaza is racing in a rich vein of form at present, but he is a bit of a dud on dry tracks. If the rain tumbles down, he is a chance. But I don’t think so.
Big Danger: Ocean Journey sat near the speed and kicked on nicely for third at Coffs Harbour last start behind Erinsea. Drops in grade, does rise in weight, but he flies at the track (5:2-0-2) and handles all conditions.
Roughie: Rev The Chev was desperately unlucky not to win at Port Macquarie last week where he sat wide throughout and got held up the last 100m. Give him an ounce of luck and he could certainly win.
Race Four: Winning Edge Ornate Urn Handicap (Benchmark 70) 1200m Form Guide
Back Me: Dux Bellorum should be cherry ripe thanks to having two runs back from a spell. Was a bit unlucky at the Sunshine Coast before appearing to having his chance at Doomben. This is the easiest race he has contested for a while and again, Liam Birchely should chalk up another winner during this carnival.
Don’t Back Me: Ibalance was ridden nicely and powered home to win the John Carlton Cup last week. Although it was impressive, he has to rise four kilos in weight and an apprentice takes the saddle.
Big Danger: Product was supported when resuming at the Sunshine Coast but didn’t seem happy in the sloppy conditions when finishing eigth. Has performed well second up before and can handle any surface up to slow.
Roughie: Blinkin Swift was impressive last Friday at Gunnedah where he sat just off the speed and powered away to record a soft two length win. Stepping up in grade here but he is consistent and isn’t badly weighted.
Race Five: Nbn Inglis Bonus Plate 1200m Form Guide
Back Me: I have narrowed it down to two- Zin Zan Eddie and Classical Melody. With the more race experience, I am leaning towards Classical Melody. She should have beaten Texan Lad at Mudgee but she clipped heels and lost ground. Fitter, handy barrier and the rider is in a purple patch of form.
Don’t Back Me: Texan Lad, as I said above, was a bit lucky to win. He has been up for a while and it’s hard to stay up, especially if you’re a juvenile.
Big Danger: Zin Zan Eddie had been trialling super before his debut run at Warwick Farm where he sat well back, was forced very wide on the home turn yet made up a stack of ground late to finish a close up third. He has since trialled at Rosehill and went around like a star. Very hard to hold out.
Roughie: If the rain does arrive, look out for Substation. Only one reason: His sire, Not A Single Doubt. He is a handy sire, but he is one of the best wet track sires in Australia in terms of strike rate.
Race Six: Maclean Bowling Club Grafton Cup 2350m Form Guide
Back Me: I said six weeks ago that Warrior Within will win the Grafton Cup and provided the track isn’t too wet, then he will. His last two runs have been superb, a third in the Ipswich Cup and a fast finishing third in the Tatt’s Cu behind Ginga Dude. The two concerns are the weather and his weight. If he can overcome both of those factors, he’ll go very close to winning.
Don’t Back Me: Hume was beaten 30 lengths in the Queen’s Cup on Saturday…No thanks.
Big Danger: Southern Shimmer and Shamardashing are the dangers. The Taree galloper loomed up to win at Warwick Farm but just could not get past Sour Mash. Only query is the distance but he has the inside draw so he should be put to sleep. Shamardashing sat deep with no cover in the Tatt’s Cup and despite that, he still ran on strongly for fourth. With a softer trip, he can win, and possibly blow these away.
Roughie: Really surprised French Gift is the rank outsider at $41. His run last start at the ATC meeting at Gosford was very good given he sat back in a slowly run race. If the pace comes on, he will be the one running on.
Race Seven: Sky Racing Mother’s Gift 1400m Form Guide
Back Me: Perfect race for talented mare More Than Royal to bounce back to winning form. Caught wide first up at Canterbury before sitting outside the pace at Newcastle and fighting on well fourth. Admittedly, her form has been fairly ordinary, but she has contested some tough races. Without doubt, this is the best chance she has to get another win under her belt.
Don’t Back Me: Little Vicki hasn’t done much this time in. She has the rails draw and drops in weight, but she is not racing well enough to be considered a contender here I think.
Big Danger: The in-form galloper of the north coast is Erinsea. She has won her last four starts, with a combined winning margin of 10.3 lengths. Her races have been spaced and she seemingly is appreciating it. She’ll go very close again.
Roughie: Beggin took an age to get going at Rockhampton, but once she did, she powered home, so I think the extra furlong here is perfect. Inside draw helps and Wiggins is in form.
Race Eight: Sir James Kirby Handicap 1000m Form Guide
Back Me: There is only one pace they’ll go here…Flat out! So look for backmarkers and I have come up with Newborn. He should kick up and get the best run in the world behind a hot tempo and with clear running, he’ll attack the line and hopefully finish the day on a winning note for punters.
Don’t Back Me: Suchabimbo has been racing in awesome style of late, but there were warning signs last start where he finished second. He pulled his head off and didn’t finish the race off as well as he has in his previous three starts. Needs to get rid of that bad habit in order to win.
Big Danger: Tycoon Tattoo has a high cruising speed and he showed that last start over the short course at Toowoomba where he spanked his rivals. He’ll lead these and look the winner at some stage of the race.
Roughie: Cyclone Brad is resuming from a 64 day break. His last start was at Warwick Farm where he sat back in a fast run race and ran on nicely at the end. Trialled at Coffs Harbour a couple of weeks back and looked well enough in winning that. With a nice draw here, he can sit a touch closer to the speed and be within striking range.