Gary Harley – Herald – 01/06/2024

James Cummings will send four lightly raced youngsters to Newcastle on Saturday, and the stable has bright prospects in three races.

The royal blue colours will be carried by two juveniles in the opening event, the NAC Services 2yo Maiden Plate (900m). The gelding Blue Illusion resumes from a spell after four starts in his first two preparations, and his two recent trials at Warwick Farm have been encouraging. He started favourite in the Listed Maribyrnong Trial at Flemington in October but finished down the track behind Bodyguard. Two weeks later Blue Illusion was placed behind Shangri La Express in the Randwick Kirkham Plate. He finished strongly when runner up at Hawkesbury in his last start in February. The two-year-old was not ridden out when beaten a neck in a recent Warwick Farm trial. Stablemate The Fort is one of Blue Illusion’s opponents, and in her only start at Sandown she was backed when coming from well back to finish fifth.

Cummings’ Lonhro three-year-old Presides contests the Junction Hotel CG&E Maiden Plate (1250m) and he put the writing on the wall when narrowly beaten on a heavy track at Gosford on May 16. The gelding was slowly away and hit the line hard in that first up run and he will appreciate the longer trip and spacious track.

Cummings’ other Newcastle starter Lily Bobtail finished a length behind Presides at Gosford, and the filly will be fitter for the first up run when she contests the Hunter Signs F&M Maiden Plate (1250m). Lily Bobtail draws well, and the prospect of a soft track will not be a problem. Jean Van Overmeire rides Blue Illusion, Presides and Lily Bobtail while Grant Buckley has the mount on The Fort.

An eye-catching performance by Annabel Neasham’s Smart Action on Scone Cup day points to the gelding being hard to beat in the Burwood Inn Class 1 Handicap (1400m). The four-year-old was friendless in a Class 2 1300m event at Scone, and he was at best ten lengths off the lead with 500m left to run. Smart Action powered home in the straight to go down by ¾ length behind Godolphin’s How Dare You. He may have won the race but for shifting out abruptly late. Smart Action has won second up and won his only Newcastle start in November. The longer trip is also in his favour.

A drop in class should lead to the John Sargent trained Waverley breaking through for his first win in the Newcastle Transport Specialists Super Maiden Plate (1890m). Waverley was placed in his only Newcastle start two runs back, and last start at Gosford on a heavy track he led and was under pressure before the turn when finishing fifth. It was a much stronger field than this and the shorter trip on Saturday is ideal. Jean Van Overmeire has a good book of rides, and he goes aboard Waverley for the first time. The three-year-old was placed in the Listed Geelong Classic in October.

Party Doll, placed in four of six starts on rain affected tracks is well-placed in the Sharp Office Provincial Class 1 Handicap (1200m). Brad Widdup’s mare has had three runs at Newcastle for a win and two seconds, and she was a close second at Hawkesbury last start.

It is the Mark Hughes Foundations annual race day at Newcastle and the meeting has been a good money spinner for the Foundation. The former Newcastle Knights premiership winner and State Of Origin player will be at the on course function raising money for cancer research.