Gary Harley – Herald
Chris Waller’s dominance of the Newcastle Gold Cup in recent years is set to continue Friday. The Newcastle Jockey Club has put together a cracking days racing with three group 3 events: the $250,000 Sharp Office Newcastle Gold Cup (2300m), the $200,000 Yarraman Park Tibbie Stakes (1400m) for Fillies and Mares and the $200,000 Australian Bloodstock Cameron Handicap (1500m).
Waller trained stayers have won four of the past seven Newcastle Cups, and the stable will saddle up a trio of in-form stayers in Friday’s renewal. Recent Wyong Cup winner Durston, runner up Yiyi and the in form Born A King make up the Waller team.
Durston, a seven-year-old European import will be ridden by James McDonald who is yet to win a Newcastle Cup. Formerly trained in Victoria by the Maher and Eustace stable, the gelding has had three starts for Waller. Two starts back Durston finished last in the Randwick Premiers Cup after pulling hard, and he went into the Wyong Cup with a norton bit, and the gear change did the trick. McDonald hopped aboard for the first time, and after racing at the tail of the field Durston raced away to win easily with something in hand. The lightly raced stayer has won up to 2900m in Europe.
Born A King is another import in top form with two wins and two placings in his past four starts. A son of the great Frankel, he is a better horse on top of the ground. He has won on soft going, only has to carry 54kg and McEvoy rides. Yiyi ran on strongly when runner up in the Wyong Cup, and he is a winner at Newcastle.
Hunter Syndicators Australian Bloodstock won the 2020 Newcastle Gold Cup with Mugatoo, and its stayer Mankayan, trained by Maher and Eustace is expected to go to the barriers as favourite on Friday. He has had four starts this preparation for three wins and a second. The seven-year-old has won over 2500m in Europe. Top Victorian jockey Ben Melham will fly in to ride the gelding.
Brad Widdup’s bonnie mare Icebath, the winner of more than $4.3 million on the racetrack is a weighted special in the set weight Tibbie Stakes. The mare will only carry 55 kilograms under the conditions and Kerrin McEvoy has the mount. Icebath loves a wet track and rain is predicted throughout Thursday and Friday morning. In her second start this campaign Icebath was runner up behind Zaaki in the Tramway Handicap.
The Waterhouse-Bott trained Cross Talk will be favourite in the Cameron Handicap. He has won five of eight starts and he was placed in the recent Hawkesbury Rowley Mile. Cross Talk had a tick over trial on September 1 at Canterbury and he cruised under a hold with Mr Mozart and Ellsberg.
Sydney’s top jockeys are making the trip to Newcastle, and with all the many function rooms booked out the NJC are preparing for a huge day on Friday.