The Jungle Juice Cup, Cessnock’s flagship race from its inception in 1981 until the track ceased racing in 2020 will be run on the Newcastle course proper on Saturday. The past three Jungle Juice Cups have been held at Newcastle, and this years Cup, worth $50,000 has attracted a quality field.
Kris Lees has never won the race but his lightly raced five-year-old Willinga Freefall has a great chance of giving Lees and his major client Australian Bloodstock their first Jungle Juice Cup. Kiwi bred Willinga Freefall has had eight starts for two wins and three placings. Lees set the son of dual Doncaster winner Sacred Falls for the Provincial-Midway Championship series during the Autumn, and he performed well in the qualifiers against stronger opposition than he faces on Saturday.
Willinga Freefall was placed, less than a length from the winner Phearson in the Hawkesbury qualifier on March 4. He finished fourth behind stablemate Acquitted on a Heavy track in the Wyong qualifier on March 25. In the Provincial-Midway Wildcard at Newcastle on March 30, he led at the 400m before finishing third behind talented stablemates Loch Eagle and Spangler. Willinga Freefall did not fancy the Heavy surface when down the track in the final, which was his last run before a spell. The gelding has had two very quiet recent trials, and he has a good fresh record with two wins and a placing from three starts first up.
Lees said on Thursday after acceptances that Willinga Freefall was well placed and is ready to win. “The horse is going well, and he raced well against strong opposition last preparation. The rails barrier is a big plus and I decided to claim 3kg with our stable apprentice Ben Osmond, who is riding very well” Lees said.
Australian Hall Of Famer, and legendary jockey Robert Thompson, his wife Jenny and his mother Phyllis will be guests of the Newcastle Jockey Club on Saturday. Thompson who rode 4487 winners, including eleven Jungle Juice Cups will officiate at the presentation.
Muswellbrook mare Running Bear could be the hardest to beat after winning the recent Denman Cup on his home track, and he will appreciate the long straight. John Thompson’s Eyeque has been runner-up in his last two starts at Newcastle, and he is a threat.
Kembla trained Territory Express is in great form and appears hard to beat with Ash Morgan aboard in the CABAC Benchmark 64 Handicap (1600m). The four-year-olds trainer Paul Niceforo has taken the blinkers off for the first time and he has a lovely barrier. Territory Express has had three starts this preparation and has never raced better. He has been getting a long way back in all three races and powering home. First up on this track he stormed home to beat subsequent winner Satirical Fan, and second up he was beaten a head at Kembla. Last start in a Rosehill Midway, Territory Express came from thirteenth at the top of the straight to finish sixth. He steps up to the mile for the first time, and he will relish the longer trip.
Local speedster Drums Of War has blistering speed and will take running down in the NHP Electrical Engineering Provincial Benchmark 64 Handicap (900m). The three-year-old was run down late on debut over this course on August 29 and last start he bolted in with a Taree maiden on September 24. Drums Of War draws okay and is another good mount for Ash Morgan. The Jason Deamer trained gelding is a son of former USA track star American Pharoah.
Paul Perry’s filly Cosy Corner is ready to strike in the Schneider Electric F&M Maiden Handicap (1200m). The three-year-old is third up after a close second on this track last start. Jeff Penza has the mount from barrier three.
The track will be a Good 4 and the rail is in the true position on a great day to go racing. The Newcastle meeting coincides with the $20 million TAB Everest race day, as well as Caulfield Guineas Day.