Emerging talent Durnstein is set carry the weight of the punters and a slice of Clarence River Jockey Club in Sunday‘s Jack & Digger Memorial Country Championship Preview – Class 4 Handicap (1200m) at Grafton.
Durnstein has been heavily supported from $5 into $2.90 TAB favouritism for the Championships warm up with some prominent connections set to be cheering him on.
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The son of Exosphere is part-owned by the chairman of the Clarence River Jockey Club Graeme Green as well as Manning River Jockey Club chairman Greg Coleman.
He will be one of two runners for trainer Dwayne Schmidt in the day‘s feature event and can take a crucial step towards his ultimate goal when he lines up alongside stablemate Alf’s Magic.
“The Country Championships has been the main aim with him,” Schmidt said.
“But if he can‘t settle Sunday to get the 1200m, I don’t think I will push on with him. He is a very hot horse Durnstein, and still very green.
“But at this stage that‘s where we are going and that’s where the owners hope he can go.
“With (Green and Coleman) in the ownership, they are both country blokes who have a bit of weight in country racing so they would really love a runner in the Championships so I have to do the best thing.
“He just needs to settle, be in a nice rhythm and breathe properly and he will run the trip no worries.”
Durnstein, which will be ridden by Ben Looked, has made an excellent start to his career with two wins and two placings from five starts and was a narrow second at Eagle Farm over 1000m first-up.
Schimdt is adamant Durnstein has above average ability and expects connections will have a lot of fun with the gelding over the coming seasons.
The Grafton conditioner hopes to two runners in the Championships with stablemate Alf‘s Magic owned by some of his most loyal connections and set to follow a similar path.
Alf‘s Magic is a winner of three of his 10 starts but has mixed his form in recent times, failing to beat a runner home in two of his past three runs.
“I just can‘t work him out, he runs one good one and then chucks in a couple of bad ones,” Schimdt said.
“I am not sure he is wanting further so then he can get in his comfort zone and stay in for a fair way because he showed a fair bit of ability early.
“We knocked back a bit of money from Hong Kong for him but since we gelded him, he hasn‘t been the same horse.
“He is capable of winning but the barrier is not going to be favourable for him.”
Apprentice Emily Lang has been tasked with navigating a path from barrier 13 with Alf‘s Magic while Durnstein has a better draw in barrier nine.
“Alf‘s Magic will go forward in the race and Durnstein will take a sit,” Schmidt said.
“He probably hasn‘t drawn the best Alf’s Magic, an average draw but I think Durnstein will be better suited in barrier nine.
“He is a big striding horse and will probably need a bit of free running and room to get going.
“I couldn‘t be more happy with how both have come through their Brisbane trips.”
Race 1 No. 11 – Mumma Sue
She was excellent first up and should get her maiden out of the way very quickly.
Race 5 No. 2 – Tara Jasmine
Dynamic first up and a Grafton specialist. Expecting her to run really well.
Race 4 No. 4 – Echoes Of My Mind
Has been racing well for new trainer Paul Shailer and shouldn‘t be far away.
Race 3 – 1, 4, 5, 14
Race 4 – 2, 3, 4
Race 5 – 2, 4, 7, 8
Race 6 – 2, 3, 4, 8
Jockey To Follow – Ben Looker
On a tough day, he can should be on the winners list.
Mumma Sue went straight in the blackbook on debut after making up a stack of ground from the back. Stepping up 100m in trip should suit her nicely as she should be finishing hard again. Trainer Brett Dodson reckons she‘s still learning her craft but she looks to have plenty of upside. Satsara did enough on debut to suggest she could improve. The 3kg claim of Heidi Gillie is the pro but a wide draw the definite con. A positive third on debut back on December 1 bodes well for Devils Where’s future. He’s been given a quiet tick over trial since to keep him up to the mark. Systemic is a definite chance if he can get in the field as an emergency after joining Stephen Lee from Lindsay Park.
Verdict: Mumma Sue to win.
Ausbred Yahoo is ready to break her maiden. The daughter of Helmet was gunned down at the post last start at Coffs Harbour when she looked the winner everywhere but the photo. Sticks at 1400m for this and can take the shortest way home. My Mate Cobber will get back so the 11 draw shouldn‘t be an issue. The Paul Smith-trained galloper will be running on but it will be a matter of if he gets there in time. Brave Instinction has placed in four of his seven starts. He’s a consistent galloper and a win will come his way eventually. Keen to watch the betting moves for Devocean. The barrier 11 will be tricky but his trials indicate he’s got some talent.
Verdict: Ausbred Yahoo to win.
Byakko is first up over 1700m but does he best work over a trip. After previously racing for Chris Waller, he won on debut over a similar trip for Donna Grisedale at this venue last prep. The 2kg claim of Jasper Franklin gets in with 57.5kg. Loved the effort of Vandaceous at Ballina last time. The Vancouver gelding will get back and hit the line strongly. Count De Monnaie is yet to win after four starts but is stepping up to a trip that should suit him nicely. Expect him to be toughing it out while Wizard Of Visp was third at Sunshine Coast last time and drops into easier grade. The Bradbury‘s Luck gelding has had two prep runs to get him ready for Sunday’s assignment.
Verdict: Byakko to win.
Echoes Of My Mind just needs a bit of luck from the inside draw. The Paul Shailer-trained gelding will likely land somewhere midfield but if he gets the gaps when the whips are cracking, he should go close. He hasn‘t missed the placings in three starts for his new trainer and was beaten by a talented type last start. For a 10-year-old, Divine Sanction is still only lightly-raced. He won his 34th start at Coffs Harbour last time and seems to still have a zest for racing. Last Not Least was a good winner at Lismore last time but just hope he doesn’t land three wide from the outside gate. No Respect won at his only visit to this track and trip.
Verdict: Echoes Of My Mind to win.
After Emily Lang‘s 2kg claim, it’s hard to stay away from Tara Jasmine. She gets in 61kg but that shouldn’t be an issue with her form. The John Shelton-trained galloper has won three of four when first up and loves Grafton. She has won six of her seven runs on home turf and placed in her only other attempt. Swanston strung a hat-trick of wins together. He’s a talented galloper but 63.5kg makes life very tougher. Baikya has won both starts at Grafton and gets a massive weight advantage on the top two with 55kg. Ben Looker has been set a tougher task with barrier 10 but the Aiden St Vincent-trained mare can certainly gallop. Would include Star Of Harada in wider multiples while Miss Super looks progressive.
Verdict: Tara Jasmine to win.
Country Championships aspirations could be enhanced in the final event. The promising Durnstein can put himself in the frame for autumn riches with a strong showing. The Exosphere gelding was narrowly beaten in city grade at Eagle Farm last start and looks to have his best racing in front of him. He just needs to run a strong 1200m. It‘s hard to pot the recent form of Sensational Reward. The five-year-old has won all three for Paul Shailer since joining his yard from the McEvoys and is a winner over 1300m before. Wonderwhen has never missed the placings in four first ups attempts with one win. Has won twice at this track and trip too. Those three certainly aren’t the only chances in a competitive race.
Verdict: Durnstein to win.