Gary Harley – The Herald – 12.11.22

Top jockey Tim Clark is confident that In The Congo, one of three Group 1 winners in the race can give him his first win in the $1million The Hunter at Newcastle on Saturday. It will be the fourth running of The Hunter, highlight of Newcastle stand-alone meeting which on Saturday carries record prizemoney of $2.5 million. The Hunter honour roll is impressive with Lost And Running successful last year, and Sweet Deal and Savatiano previous winners.

In The Congo indicated he was back to his best when beaten a head by Rocketing By in the Sydney Stakes on Everest Day (October 15). Last start in the rich Golden Eagle he led and had to endure mid race pressure for a long way when beaten four lengths. Clark was at home when we discussed In The Congo’s prospects in The Hunter on Wednesday. “My horse is the one to beat and I believe he is as good as Gai and Adrian could have him. I worked In The Congo the other day and his work was outstanding. He is a fast horse, but so are Apache Chase and Overpass. I have a lovely draw and if he is headed during the race the leaders are going too fast it won’t help their chances. I can take a sit if we are headed, the 1300m suits In The Congo and he has a good cruising speed” Clark said.

In The Congo beat Anamoe in the 2021 Golden Rose. Another Group 1 winner in The Hunter is the crack Queenslander Apache Chase, trained by the popular Desleigh Forster – and one of the Sunshine states best Jim Byrne has the mount. During the winter carnival Apache Chase beat Paulele in the Group 1 Kingsford Smith Cup when he led all the way. Last start Forster brought him to Sydney on October 15 for the Sydney Stakes, and he was beaten 1.9 lengths. On October 1 he finished 1.88 lengths behind Lost And Running and Mazu in the Premier. Forster left Queensland on Thursday morning for the road trip to Newcastle.

“I have targeted The Hunter for Apache Chase months ago and he is spot on. A lovely big track which will be a Good 4 is just what he wants. I was happy with his two Sydney runs in October and I have freshened Apache Chase for the Hunter. I will leave the tactics to Jim Byrne, but I can guarantee they won’t be loafing. He has serious speed and so have others in the race, but he can take a sit. I couldn’t have Apache Chase any fitter. I have only raced once at Newcastle and that was four or five years back” Forster said.

James Cummings’ four-year-old Vilana has a great chance in The Hunter. He has won five of nine and following a brilliant first up win in The Silver Eagle his chance in the Golden Eagle was remote when he drew barrier 20. Still, his run was good as he was never on the track, and he made good ground late to finish midfield.

The Hunter has attracted a high-quality field with many realistic chances of claiming the rich prize. Warm weather all week and record ticket sales have the Newcastle Jockey Club excited as we approach its super meeting.

New Zealand Bloodstock’s Mike Kneebone has sponsored eight of the ten races including the Jack Newton Legend Mile. Newton, a champion golfer who passed away in April this year was one of Newcastle’s greatest sportsman. The supporting feature races to the $1 Million The Hunter include the $300,000 NZB Insurance The Beauford (2300m), $200,000 New Zealand Bloodstock 3YO NJC Spring Stakes (Group 3) 1600m and the NZB Airfreight Max Lees Classic (900m) for 2yo’s.