Canberra Racing — Black Opal Stakes and Cup Day Wrap-Ups
The Canberra Racing Club would be delighted with the success of its first two-day Black Opal carnival program. High quality gallopers from leading Sydney yards were drawn to the four feature races, with the cream rising to the top.
The weather gods were kind both days and the track played right up to the occasion. Attendances, especially on Black Opal day, were excellent. The Canberra hospitality industry lauded the much needed boost for local business and the economy generally.
Equally satisfying from a local perspective were the eight races — over the two day 16 race program — taken out by Canberra stables— keeping a chunk of money at home.
BLACK OPAL DAY
On Black Opal Day (Sunday), five races went the way of Canberra-trained gallopers.
In Race 1, TERRA REIGN ($7.0) returned to form for Matt Dale, just getting up over the favourite POLYXENA, with a space to the rest.
UPPER HOUSE ($19) surprised for Norm Gardner taking out Race 3, winning easily from the heavily-supported favourite MOOKAREENA ($2.05) — Joseph/Jones.
Joseph/Jones quickly made amends in Race 4, with ZELAGO ($8.00) storming home from mid-field to just top BOOM AND ZOOM ($19). Zelago was kept safe in a very open race and raced up to his work.
One of the most popular and thrilling local wins was delivered in the Quality Open sprint (Race 5), by the $4.40 favourite HANDLE THE TRUTH — Keith Dryden.
The Kosciusko winner's return to racing was much anticipated. After racing wide throughout, the gelding stormed over the Sydne-trained threats under the strong and capable guidance of Nash Rawiller. Bigger things are in store for Handle The Truth at the Brisbane winter carnival.
Keith Dryden was at it again in Race 8, when the well-supported SHORES OF AVALON ($5.50) just pipped the $2.4 favourite and stablemate ETHAM PALACE.
The first of the features on Day One — the Geocon National Sprint — was taken out by John Thompson (Sydney) trained CUBA ($4.20) producing a tough on-pace effort. The local Matt Dale-trained $2.70 favourite SAUSEDGE could only manage fifth beaten 1.7L after being a little slow to begin and contacted soon after by another runner.
The John McGrath Black Opal Stakes was an absolute thriller, with four quality 2yos surging to the line with just 0.64L between them. Team Snowden quinelled the race with BARBARIC ($5.50) pipping BARTLEY ($5.50) from the $2.60 favourite CELLSABEEL (Maher-Eustace) a lip away third. Cellsabeel unsuccessfully lodged a protest against the winner.
CANBERRA CUP DAY
On Canberra Cup Day (Monday), Norm Gardner racked up his second carnival winner when TRYING ($8.50) easily won Race 1, relishing the soft track conditions.
And Joseph/Jones also delivered a local training-double in Race 2 when NIECES AND NEPHEWS ($6.0) defeated Keith Dryden’s IL PROFESSIONALE by a whisker, with a space to the rest.
The last of the Canberra-trained carnival winner was VISAVIS ($8.0) trained by Garry Kirkup, who won Race 3 by a lip.
The first of the day’s features — the XXX Gold Canberra Guineas — was taken out by just by Godolphin's second-elect PROMOTIONS ($4.0) with Hugh Bowman in the saddle. There was plenty of money to suggest it could be Promotions day.
In the feature TAB Canberra Cup, the hot favourite MUGATOO ($1.90) proved he has a big future in Australia powering away to win easily under Kerrin McEvoy. The Local Nick Olive-trained MAID OF ORE ($15) ran a creditable third in tough company.
Riding honours over the two days were taken out by Blaike McDougall with three winners. It was a satisfying result for McDougall, given his opportunities were limited with plenty of the ‘big-gun’ Sydney hoops in town.
One of those ‘guns’ Kerrin McEvoy took out the two biggest features — the Black Opal itself, and the Canberra Cup.
Nash Rawiller also rode a double, delivering on the impressive debutant Phoenician in the TAB Lickety Split and Handle The Truth.
Promising apprentice Tom Sherry would have been well pleased also, winning two races and again showing he's a young rider with a big future.
Hugh Bowman (Canberra Guineas) and Tim Clark (National Sprint) were other Sydney top-liners to get a share of the bigger spoils.
Training doubles over the two days were recorded by Norm Gardner, Joseph/Jones, Keith Dryden and Sydney’s John Thompson.
All in all, two days of racing and festivities that will be long remembered.