Belinda Hodder chases down Perry-owned Last Ace as Ben Looker sets sights on Kosciuszko

Belinda Hodder had an impressive ride on Saturday at the Port Macquarie Cup carnival. Photo: Matt Attard
Belinda Hodder had an impressive ride on Saturday at the Port Macquarie Cup carnival. Photo: Matt Attard

A riding double for prominent north coast jockey, Ben Looker, provides an ideal preparation for an appointment with Victorem and glory in the $1.3 million Kosciuszko at Randwick next week as the curtain came down on the 2018 Port Macquarie Cup Carnival.

Looker heads to $13 million Everest day in Sydney riding with great confidence as shown with victories on Without Conviction and Zoffany’s Lad in the middle of Saturday’s program.

Following success in the Country Championships on the Jenny Graham trained galloper, Victorem, he carries the hopes of the mid north coast in the richest country event in the world next Saturday.

Without Conviction was responsible for the biggest betting plunge on the program after shortening from $5.50 in to $3.40 and was able to hold off the finishing run of Veganza while Zoffany’s Lad gave favourite punters little cause for fear when saluting as favourite in the fourth event.

Following Good Excuse’s strong win for Taree trainer. Wayne Wilkes on Friday, Andrew Gibbons continued the form with a riding double aboard Directory and Albert of Monaco.

It was also great news that the Wilkes stable has gained a start with Fuel in the Kosciuszko and all in the association wish Wayne and Jenny Graham the very best of luck next week’s assignment.

The most impressive performance of the day was in the opening event when Colt Prosser produced the Direct Charge gelding, Jumper Leads, on debut for an outstanding victory by over five lengths.

Belinda Hodder made her move to challenge the Paul Perry youngster, Last Ace, before careering away over the concluding stages on Jumper Leads, while Albert of Monaco was successful in the distance event later in the card.

The large holiday crowd enjoyed exciting racing on soft track conditions with the placement of the moveable rail presenting advantage to horses racing on the speed or finishing fast down the outside over the concluding stages.

The program concluded a highly successful cup carnival with the club greatly appreciative of the continued support provided by Steeline North Coast and their associate sponsor, ITW Buildex.

The Port Macquarie Cup fixtures were well patronised by the local participants together with the very best jockeys and trainers from the metropolitan area with president, Greg Delaforce, and committee delighted with interest, turnover and attendances.

There are meetings listed to be conducted at the track on Sunday 28th October with Schweppes Race day scheduled for Thursday 15th November and Panthers Race day on Tuesday 27th November. 

Race 1: Steeline 10 Year Anniversary 3YO Maiden Plate (1010 metres)

There was plenty of confidence surrounding the Kris Lees debutant, Last Ace, who started as an odds-on favourite with Jumper Leads kept extremely safe in wagering operations.

The speed was on early as Belinda Hodder anticipated the start well to land the Colt Prosser debutant, Jumper Leads, straight to the front while Last Ace and Star Factor attacked for the lead, with the latter being three-deep.

While Andrew Gibbons persevered for the speed position on Last Ace, Terry Treichel eased out of the battle to settle just off the leaders on the Paul Perry trained filly, Star Factor.

As the field headed for home, Hodder released the brakes on Jumper leads and the Direct Charge gelding motored to the line for a comprehensive victory by over five lengths from Last Ace with Valley’s Sister working home well for third. 

Race 2:    Steeline Mid North Coast 4YO & UP Maiden Hcp (1010 metres)

Tears He Cried was the easing favourite for the race over Directory with the Todd Howlett trained gelding, Snippets of Rain, confidently supported in a tight betting race. 

Inwithachance set the early race tempo from Hidden Storm with Tears He Cried planted off the fence and Man with a Plan trapped wide.

Andrew Gibbons was content to relax the Nick Mitchell trained mare, Directory in second last position before commencing a run at the 600-metre mark.

Inwithachance was under pressure as the field straightened up with Robert Thompson making his move aboard Tears He Cried and Snippets of Rain moving into the race well.

While this was happening, the Street Sense mare, Directory, came with a paralysing burst down the outside to race away for an impressive win. 

Race 3:    Steeline Staff Maiden Plate (1512 metres)

Despite the locals solidly supporting Jenny Graham and Veganza in the event, the flood of money for the consistent Star Wilkes filly, Without Conviction, was certainly significant.

The race was delayed when Comiskey Park failed the loading process into the barrier stalls and was relieved of its engagement.

Harry and the Duke began well and led before being challenged and headed by Courtney Van der Werf aboard Candy Girl with Veganza and Without Conviction perfectly positioned behind the speedsters.

Candy Girl was immediately under pressure as the field headed for the judge with Veganza challenging before Ben Looker came down the crown of the track with a well-timed run on the consistent Paul Perry filly, Without Conviction, to gain the prize.

Race 4:    I.T.W Buildex Class 3 Hcp (1512 metres)

Zoffany’s Lad was attempting three successive wins following recent victories at Taree and the punters were keen to support the gelding with a sprinkling on money for Mina Harker and Magic Ali.

The flashy grey gelding from the local stable of Neil Godbolt, Shadow Prince, set the early tempo from Ticket to Fly with Party Host well positioned and Zoffany’s Lad stationed in the middle of the field.

The run presented in the straight for Mina Harker to challenge Shadow Prince, but neither were able to survive the finishing burst of the Grant Allard trained gelding, Zoffany’s Lad, who completed the treble and presented Ben Looker with a riding double.

Race 5:    Steeline Port Macquarie Class 1 & Maiden Plate (1812 metres)

Vision and Prayer held the lion’s share of betting support in a wide market with Backhouse Frilly and Little Al the only galloper seriously considered to defeat the favourite.

Mikayla Weir had no hesitation in taking the Dylan Thomas mare, Vision and Prayer, straight to the front and set a genuine tempo form Little Al, Shierro and Annie Saturday.

Weir is seen to advantage on front runners and rated the Todd Howlett trained galloper perfectly as she was able to maintain a clear margin as the field headed for home.

Little Al issued a short-lived challenge, which couldn’t be sustained, before Towel Token came from the centre of the pack with a strong run while Karlu Dreaming found the advantage down the outside.

After recent encouraging placings in the association in preparation, Vision and Prayer was able to lift in the straight to race away for a deserved win by just over two lengths while Towel Token worked home well for second.

Race 6:    Ronald McDonald House Benchmark 58 Hcp (2012 metres)

Following success on cup day, followers of the Angela Davies stable were keen to support Albert of Monarco into favouritism with Villarrica and Dew Drop the other two runners meeting with strong betting confidence.

With plenty of competitors jostling for early supremacy, Northern Charm assumed control from Casiraghi and Haveago Charlie with Andrew Gibbons placing Albert of Monaco just off the fence in sixth position and Villarrica near the tail.

When the speed slackened off noticeably at the half way mark, Peter Graham challenged for the lead on Haveago Charlie while the Monaco Consul gelding, Albert of Monaco, made a move towards the outside as the field approached the bend.

With many challengers down the straight, Andrew Gibbons assumed control on Albert of Monaco and was able to stave off the finishing burst of Villarrica, who made up many lengths closer to the fence while Miss Mumazara ran a solid third.

Race 7:    Steeline Service Over and Above Benchmark 58 Hcp (1210 metres)

Following strong recent wins at Muswellbrook and Tamworth in preparation for the assignment, Rubel was the favourite at post time with a serious betting move for Winter Sonata the only challenge.

There was drama at the start when American Star reared in the gates and lost many lengths while the Stephen Quintano trained gelding, Flick Pass was taken to the lead by Jenny Duggan.

Ilia began to attack for the lead while Winter Sonata was third covering the favourite, Rubel, who was enjoying the run of the race.

This pattern continued as the field headed for home with Cejay Graham gaining the lead momentarily on Ilia before Flick Pass kicked back and Winter Sonata started to make ground down the outside.

Jenny Duggan was able to obtain the best from the War Pass gelding, Flick Pass, to hold Ilia and the fast finishing performance of Winter Sonata to gain the prize with Rubel running a steady race closes to the rails to be just behind the placegetters.