Jungle Juice Cup- 12 October -2018

Jungle Juice Cup

Graham Payne a former Cessnock sporting hero returned to his home town to achieve a lifetime ambition when his sprinter Kentucky Flyer blitzed a classy field in the Cessnock Leagues Club Jungle Juice Cup on October 12.

The famous Jungle Juice Cup, first run in 1981, has been a racing highlight at the Cessnock Racecourse ever since. The honour roll of winning jockeys includes Hugh Bowman, Josh Parr, Robert Thompson, Greg Ryan, Tim Bell, John Wade, Bill Aspros and Allan Robinson.

The 2018 edition of the Cup was a strong race, but ominously, the big market-mover was the former Victorian gelding Kentucky Flyer, which opened up at $11 with the corporates, before solid support saw the six-year-old firm into race favouritism at $4.

Graham Payne, a Crookwell publican these days, only took over the training of Kentucky Flyer from Graeme Begg a couple of weeks before the Jungle Juice Cup. Payne booked the 27-year-old Chinese apprentice Qin Yong to ride the favourite and his three-kilogram claim reduced the winners’ impost to a miserly 51 kilograms.

Kentucky Flyer hit the ground running and he simply ran his rivals off their legs. At the post, he had a length to spare over the heavily backed Taree gelding Sniponet ($4.40) with Marathon ($5) two and a quarter lengths away in third place.

Kentucky Flyer was purchased for $17,500 by Sky Racing’s Anthony Manton and Darrell Kid, a lifetime friend of Payne’s. Payne is also in the ownership and the first prizemoney of $16,740 confirmed that Kentucky Flyer was a bargain buy. Three weeks after the Jungle Juice Cup, the owners banked another $16,500 when Kentucky Flyer led all the way to win the Anniversary Cup at Goulburn.

Payne, now 61, was bought to tears following the Jungle Juice Cup. “Being a proud Cessnock boy, I have been trying to win this race for twenty years. Kinetics and Annandale Lass both ran placings for me in the past. I left Cessnock eleven months ago to take over the Criterion Hotel at Crookwell. Kentucky Flyer is my only horse at present and I’ve had a lot of support from John Bateman and Fiona Collins – and Pud Davies has been a really big help to me over the years.

Darrell Kidd, who lived next door to my grandparents in Cessnock when we were growing up, has been at me for some time to buy a horse- so we’ve been lucky with this bloke straight away.” Payne said.

In the 1970’s Payne was a member of a premiership winning Cessnock rugby league team in the Newcastle competition. He also won a first grade Newcastle soccer premiership with the Weston Club. A more than capable boxer, Payne narrowly missed selection in an Australian Commonwealth Games team.

The Newcastle Jockey Club were happy with the attendance in only the second year that the Jungle Juice Cup has been held in the spring, and not the winter. It was a ‘young’ crowd that enjoyed a fun day and the racing was exciting and very competitive.

Australian Bloodstock on Fire

Hunter-based Syndicators Australian Bloodstock, one of the Newcastle Jockey Clubs major sponsors flew the flag for Newcastle at the Melbourne Spring Carnival. The syndicate’s Japanese import Brave Smash, won his second Group 1 in this country when he saluted in the Manikato Stakes on the eve of the Cox Plate.

On Melbourne Cup day, Chris Waller trained his first winner for the syndicate when English import Shraaoh scored a stunning win in the 2800 metre Benchmark 96. The six-year-old had not run since July and he raced away in the straight to a comprehensive. Shraaoh will be set for the Sydney Cup in the autumn.

In the last race on Cup day, Princess Posh, trained by Kris Lees, did Australian Bloodstock proud when beaten a head in the Group 3 Maybe Mahal. The mare won the Group 3 Yarraman Park Tibbie Stakes on Newcastle Cup Day.

It’s All About Kris

Kris Lees may not have won the $13m The Everest, however, his achievement in having three of the twelve runners was exceptional. The only provincial trainer with a runner in The Everest, the Lees trio Le Romain (4th), Graff (5th) and In Her Time (9th) collected $1,720,800 for their owners.

Le Romain and Graff were outstanding on the heavy track, while In Her Time didn’t handle the going. She then showed on the last day of the VRC Carnival her true quality on a drier track when just beaten by Santa Ana Lane in the G1 VRC Sprint Classic over 1200m.

Lees and stable jockey Andrew Gibbons are heading for record breaking seasons after both enjoyed a huge first quarter of the season. Lees had saddled up 62 winners by the first week in November, while Gibbons had steered home 47 winners in the same period.


Legends Day

The Newcastle Jockey Club will honour local legends, Max Lees, Robert Thompson & Gary Harley at the 2018 Legends Race Day on Sunday December 2.

The late Max Lees trained the great Luskin Star, arguably the best two-year-old to race in this country. In 1977, Luskin Star won Sydney’s two-year-old Triple Crown, the Golden Slipper, Sires Produce and Champion Stakes. Lees trained 20 Group 1 winners from his Newcastle base until his death in 2003. The first Max Lees Classic for two-year olds was held in 2017, with the smart Jonker a brilliant winner on debut.

The prizemoney for this year’s Classic has been boosted from $50,000 to $75,000. The race is run over 900 metres and is perfectly placed for juveniles heading to the Wyong Magic Millions or Inglis Nursery at Randwick. Jonker won the Wyong event before he struck race-ending interference as one of the favourites in the Gold Coast Magic Millions.

Australian Hall of Famer Robert Thompson, who is riding as well as ever in his sixty first year, will be on hand to present the Robert Thompson Cup to the winning connections. Thompson has ridden a previous winner of the race which is a 1200 metre Benchmark 64 Handicap on December 2.

After winning a double at Newcastle in early November, ‘RT’ took his career tally of winners to an amazing 4375. He has always claimed Newcastle Racecourse as his favourite track and he has been a great ambassador for the NJC and racing in general.

A new race celebrating a local legend this year is the Gary Harley Handicap – appropriately a stayer’s race over 2300m. If ever there has been a stayer to come out of the Hunter Valley it is one G Harley. He has worked in the racing media, on radio, television and newspapers covering all three racing codes for over 45 years.

He has been aligned with the NJC for decades and is synonymous with racing in Newcastle, but also Provincially at Gosford and Wyong and at numerous country clubs in the region. He remains a long-time contributor to Sky Racing and has been a form expert and commentator since Sky Racing’s pioneering days in the late 1980’s.

The Legends race meeting will also benefit the Mark Hughes Foundation which will be raising funds for research to create awareness and support brain cancer patients. The Foundation will host a function in the trackside marquee.