Gary Harley – Wrap – 15.06.24

Jockey Mitchell Bell’s winning treble, and doubles to Newcastle trainer Nathan Doyle and the Snowden stable highlighted the Port Stephens Cup race day at Newcastle Racecourse on Saturday. The track was a Heavy 9 for race one, and with constant rain throughout the day it was downgraded to a Heavy 10 from race two onwards.

Bell, one of the best jockeys on the provincial circuit rode his 62nd winner for the season on Saturday following 90 last season and 62 in 2021-22. Two of Bell’s winners were for the Peter and Paul Snowden stable, and both fillies were short- priced favourites. Three-year-old Flying Thinker was a $1.55 favourite as she lined up for her second start in the Nexans Mobiway Boost Super Maiden Plate(1300m). The filly put the writing on the wall with a strong finishing placing on a heavy track at Hawkesbury on May 14. Bell allowed Flying Thinker to stride to the front from the outset and she was never challenged in a 1.93 length victory.

In the following race the World Wire Cables Class 1 Handicap (1200m) Bell and the Snowden’s combined with the promising Merchant Lady, the $2.25 favourite in the five-horse race. The filly settled in fourth place and joined the leaders halfway down the straight, however she had a two-horse war with runner up Candy Women – the winning margin being a nose. Merchant Lady has had three starts with a Gosford win and a Canterbury placing in addition to Saturday’s win.

Later in the day Bell was successful in the Pierlite Wombat Port Stephens Cup (1250m) aboard the Nathan Doyle trained Gago. The latter had been unplaced in his only three Newcastle starts, and his recent form had been ordinary, hence Gago’s starting price of $12. The winner was formerly trained by Chris Waller and had his first start for Doyle in March. He has won two from six for Doyle and reveled in the heavy going on Saturday.

Doyle’s other winner Coastal Groove was ridden by Port Macquarie based Ben Looker, and he was a $9.50 chance in the Legrand Excel Life Smart Midway 3yo Maiden Handicap (1400m). The winner led throughout and fought off a late challenge from odds-on favourite Mega Fight to win by 0.17 length.

Talented Scone apprentice Braith Nock rode his second winner on the Newcastle track in two weeks for Randwick trainer John O’Shea. Nock who has ridden more than 100 winners in seventeen months rode the O’Shea trained Ladyking to victory at Newcastle on June 1, and on Saturday he was aboard the heavily backed $2 favourite She’s Unusual in the Schneider Max9 Class 1 Handicap (1400m).The Kiwi bred mare settled third behind a tearaway leader and she cruised up to hit the front in the straight, before racing away to win by 3.35 lengths. It was Nock’s 83rd winner this season and he sits in second place in the NSW Apprentices Premiership, 10 ½ wins behind Zac Lloyd.

Paul Perry’s winning run continued when the ultra-consistent Curl Curl raced away late to win The IPD Race Benchmark 64 Handicap (900m). A short-course specialist Curl Curl has now had five starts over the Newcastle 900m for two wins and three placings. Perry took advantage of in form apprentice jockey Zac Wadick’s 2kg claim, and the young man’s ride was a gem. He eased behind the speed from the start and came to the outside of the leaders at the top of the straight. As Curl Curl normally does, he sprinted quickly in the straight and despite shifting out late he bolted in by 1.6 lengths.

The NJC race again at Newcastle next Saturday.