Article : Josh Callinan
Photo: Peter Lorimer
Australia’s premier trainer Chris Waller has described Newcastle as a “metropolitan-class track” and suggested the venue be utilised more often on what was a historic day for Hunter racing.
Sydney-based Waller joined a chorus of other trainers, jockeys and officials in praising the course, which hosted group 1 events for the first time on Monday after Rosehill’s meeting was cancelled due to heavy rainfall just 48 hours earlier.
The reigning Melbourne Cup champion prepared a quinella in the $500,000 Vinery Stud Stakes (1850 metres) via Fangirl and Hinged after Edward Cummings’ Duais tasted victory in the $1.5million Kia Tancred Stakes (2400m).
DAILY DOUBLE: Chris Waller prepared two winners – Fangirl and O’President.
“I think Rosehill and Randwick are fantastic at the moment, but they can’t deal with floods,” Waller said.
“The amount of rain we’ve had we either have to step up and get a track like this or just say it was a one-in-one-hundred-year event.
“Good horses need good tracks and as much as the curators do a fantastic job in Sydney they need funding for technology.
“We should [use Newcastle more]. In my opinion it’s a metropolitan-class track.”
Newcastle’s surface, having received a significant upgrade during the last decade and considered one of the state’s best at handling wet weather, went from a heavy seven to a soft six midway through the afternoon.
Fangirl edged out stablemate Hinged by 0.37 lengths following a thrilling battle in the Vinery’s closing stages.
Only 40 minutes earlier Central Coast-raised jockey Josh Parr continued his “special” connection to Newcastle, fist pumping his way across the line with a fast-finishing Duais in the Tancred.
“I started my career here in Newcastle. I rode my first winner here, I rode my first stakes winner here and now I’ve ridden a group 1 winner here. It’s quite a special track to me,” Parr said.
Cummings said four-year-old mare Duais, which clocked a maiden win at Newcastle in 2020, was a “natural athlete”.
Hometown trainer Kris Lees, who won the group 3 E Group Star Kingdom Stakes (1200m) with Gem Song to close out proceedings, welcomed the decision to move Saturday’s remaining seven races to Newcastle.
“I think it’s wonderful. Obviously it’s a late call up … but I think it’s been well received,” Lees said.
“It was a good initiative by Racing NSW. They were straight on the front foot, letting all participants know within a couple of hours of the Saturday meeting being cancelled.”
Newcastle Jockey Club chief executive Duane Dowell said he was “proud” of his team’s efforts to host the “historic” event with such a quick turnaround.
Thursday sees Newcastle house another meeting, featuring the Provincial Championships wildcard.
Elsewhere on Monday’s program Character, Promise Of Success (group 2), Mr Mozart (group 3) and O’President (benchmark 88 handicap) all saluted.