Champion trainer Chris Waller won his fifth Sharp Office Newcastle Gold Cup on Friday when his European import Durston came from last to win the Group 3 event. James McDonald produced a classic ride to give him his first Newcastle Cup success.
The emerging stayer won the Wyong Cup two weeks earlier and following Friday’s win the TAB has promoted the gelding to favouritism for the Group 1 The Metropolitan on Saturday week. Durston had been racing in Melbourne before being transferred to the Waller stable, and under the care of Australia’s premier trainer he has only had four starts. Waller put a norton bit on Durston after he pulled hard and tailed off in a race three starts back, and he is undefeated since.
On Friday Durston went to the barrier as a well backed $4.20 chance and after racing at the tail of the field “J Mac” drove him up the inside rail, and he won by 3 ½ lengths. With Waller not at the meeting, McDonald heaped praise on the winner.
“He is a very nice horse and obviously he put the writing on the wall at Wyong, but his work on Tuesday was glowing and I believed he had gone forward not backwards since Wyong. I was keen to come here today because I thought he would be hard to beat. Durston has such a good turn of foot – he is a progressive horse, especially on good ground. I think that has been the key to him” McDonald said on dismounting. Durston’s victory completed a winning treble on the day for McDonald.
Kembla based trainers Brett Lazzarini and Kerry Parker took the remaining Group 3 events, the Australian Bloodstock Cameron Handicap and Yarraman Park Tibbie Stakes. Lazzarini, a former jockey, and successful builder prepared $6.50 chance Wild Chap which nosed out the Kris Lees trained Luncies in the Cameron Handicap. Reece Jones rode the winner, and it was the former Scone apprentices first Group win. Lazzarini, part of a well-known Sydney greyhound family was Chairman of Newcastle’s The Gardens Greyhound Club for two years.
Parker, trainer of multiple Group 1 winner Think It Over only arrived on course with three races remaining, including The Tibbie in which his mare Hope In Your Heart was successful. “I was scared 100m out thinking the inside section of the track might have been the place to be. I had only been here for two races and horses on the inside had won both – but gee my mare was tough. I have had four horses from the mare Hayaat, and they have all been city winners” Parker said.
The meeting was conducted under blue skies and despite heavy rain the previous day the track got the seal of approval from the Group 1 jockeys.