Gary Harley – Wrap – The Hunter

The chests are beating at the Newcastle Jockey Club, and why not! The Hunter race day on November 12 will go down as the perfect day on and off the track for the NJC. The weather was magnificent, the track amazing, a big crowd on course and importantly the horseflesh was of the highest quality. It was a day that makes you proud to be a Novocastrian. The $1 Million “The Hunter” was the highlight on the track and what a race – what a finish!

Two of Australia’s best jockeys, Nash Rawiller (Vilana) and Tim Clark (In The Congo) engaged in a soul stirring battle over the final 200 metres. In The Congo wouldn’t give in, however Nash lifted the winner. Vilana is richly talented, as he won the Silver Eagle and was courageous finishing midfield in the $10 Million Golden Eagle, where after drawing the outside barrier, he was caught off the track all the way. James Cummings and Godolphin are great supporters of Newcastle racing, and the combination have won two of the four $1 Million “The Hunter” with Savatiano in 2019 and now Vilana – and don’t forget Gravina finished third in Saturday’s race.

The winning jockey had this to say following the race “I had a lot of confidence in the horse from what he showed me in previous starts. Today he used his natural speed to get across in a lovely spot and it was a matter of pushing the button. In The Congo is tough. I felt we were going to win by a length, but he kept fighting” Rawiller said. Darren Beadman said that he believed Vilana will develop into a Group 1 Doncaster Mile contender next April. Vilana is a half-brother to Savatiano, and she produced her first foal – a filly by the great Lonhro during the spring.

There is little doubt that the 2022 The Hunter was the classiest of the four to be run. The winner and runner up are top class, and the depth with horses that contested The Everest, Golden Eagle and Manikato in the field is proof it is now such a deep race.

The $300,000 NZB Insurance The Beauford (2300m) saw the promising Irish import King Frankel again confirming how talented he is, winning his third race from four Australian starts. Trained by Mark Newnham the five-year-old grinds his opposition into the ground, and he will run 3200m without doubt. Apprentice Tyler Schiller has ridden King Frankel in his last two all the way wins. Sky’s the limit for this stayer.

The Max Lees Classic for two-year olds attracted a field of mostly first starters. Brad Widdup’s Hellbent filly Fire Lane held on to beat the Godolphin colt Cylinder, who was beaten by the barrier. The winner settled nicely from the good draw, and he got the perfect ride from Jay Ford. Cylinder drew the extreme outside barrier and James McDonald had to take him back to last where he raced keenly. His effort to go down by a nose was super and he is the one to follow from the race.

The New Zealand Bloodstock 3YO NJC Spring Stakes, a Group 3 event was an exciting race with half a length between first and third. The Snowden trained filly Pierossa, a $20 chance was too strong for the boys in her sixth start. A filly that was a handful early in her career, she is still learning her trade and could be an Oaks filly in the Autumn. The New Zealand bred, Queensland owned, and Chris Waller trained Kazalark was a narrow runner up in only his third start and good judges have tagged the colt a Derby proposition in the Autumn.

New Zealand Bloodstock sponsored eight of the ten races and the company boss Mike Kneebone named the final event the NZB Jack Newton Legend Mile, and ironically the race was won by a Kiwi – Redwood Shadow. The gelding was a $9.50 chance, and his trainer Joe Pride landed a late double with $18 chance Coal Crusher winning the previous race.

Australia’s best jockeys were on show, and Jason Collett took the riding honours with a treble and apprentice Tyler Schiller landed a double.

Chris Nation prepared the best Newcastle track this year and deserved the accolades from the top jockeys and the Sky Racing team of Greg Radley, Corey Brown and Brad Gray who never stopped raving about how good the track was presented in the programs over the weekend.

The television advertising campaign which centred on the Hunter, “Our Region, Our Town, Our Race” was a credit to CEO Duane Dowell and proved a definite winner. The NJC race again on Tuesday and then host Legends Day on Sunday November 27.