As far as race days go for thoroughbred quality, track surface, weather conditions and Sky Racings coverage, Saturday’s The Newcastle Herald $1 million The Hunter race day was up there with the Newcastle Jockey Clubs best of the modern era. The NJC’s magnificent racetrack, the big happy crowd and of course the superb action on the track itself was showcased superbly on television all afternoon. The NJC and Racing NSW can be so proud of the 2023 The Hunter race day which continues to build each year.
And what about the racing itself with new track records in the two major races. Tyler Schiller, the young man from the Riverina who made his name when apprenticed to Mark Newnham in Sydney was the star of the jockeys ranks on the day with a treble, including a daring front running ride on The Hunter winner Coal Crusher. Trained by Joe Pride, Coal Crusher won the final event of the 2022 The Hunter meeting and returned 12 months later to smash the 1300m track record in The Hunter on Saturday. Pride put the blinkers on Coal Crusher on Saturday and told Schiller to let the front runner run, and that he did. It was sustained speed from go to woah and the $4.80 second favourite simply ran the opposition into the ground. King of Sparta ($5.50) made up good ground to be runner up, a length from the winner. Rocketing By ($31) flew home to finish third 1½ lengths away.
It was a sweet win for Schiller who had a careless riding suspension appeal upheld on Monday so he could ride Coal Crusher on Saturday. He had ridden the winner in all three starts this preparation. “It’s a great feeling especially when you have ridden him all this campaign. Joe was very confident” Schiller said.
Pride has enjoyed an incredible calendar year winning the Group 1’s Stradbroke and Kingsford Smith, The Everest and other Group races. While The Hunter is not a Group race yet it was special for the Pride family. “This is up there with the best of the moments this year. I have got to be honest this is amazing” he told Sky Racing. “I love this horse but only half as much as my 17-year-old son Brave does. He adores this horse, and he is his strapper. I train Coal Crusher for the Murphy family. Chris Murphy passed away in the last eighteen months and he was the manager of INXS. His family and my family race the horse. It is a special moment” Pride said.
Zac Lloyd had a successful day with a double in two of the major races, the $300,000 New Zealand Bloodstock The Beauford (2300m) and the Group 3 $250,000 New Zealand Bloodstock 3YO Spring Stakes (1600m). It was the classiest field of stayers to contest The Beauford and Lloyd gave a polished display on the John O’Shea trained Stroke Of Luck. The winner was a placegetter in the Group 1 Queensland Derby during the winter and Lloyd rode Stroke Of Luck when he was runner up last start in the Rosehill Cup. Stroke Of Luck ($7.50) beat Torrens ($12) by half a length in track record time.
Memories of multi Group 1 winner Ortensia were rekindled when her granddaughter Genzano scored an upset win with Lloyd aboard in the Spring Stakes. A $15 chance, the daughter of Arrowfield sire Maurice is trained by the recently formed training partnership of Paul Messara and Leah Gavranich. While Messara has now trained 26 black type winners, it was Gavranich’s first. The 34-year-old started working at Arrowfield Stud when she was 19, and she took Ortensia around the world to win Group races. Genzano is a late maturer but has won four from six and she will be even better next preparation. It was a magnificent ride by Lloyd as he found the rail from barrier eleven.
The two-year-old Max Lees Classic (900m) has a rich history and Saturday’s race was won by the smart Maher-Eustace trained filly Erno’s Cube. A $230,000 Magic Millions buy, the Rubick filly set a race record after sitting off the pace and storming home to win by 2¾ lengths. The James Cummings pair Efharisto and Gram filled the placings, and both are nice talented youngsters with futures.
Kris Lees produced a very promising, lightly raced four-year-old late on The Hunter day. Tavi Time, a New Zealand bred son of Tavistock won his fourth race from seven starts when successful in the NZB Kurt Fearnley Legend Mile (1600m). The gelding bolted in by 2¾ lengths with Dylan Gibbons in the saddle.