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By Darren Winningham | Saturday, June 29, 2019


Well the stage is set. The track is ready and here comes DAY ONE of the 2019 Grafton Carnival with the traditional “WESTLAWN” sponsored day – traditionally where you don gold and black clothes (the sponsors colours). It features the John Carlton Cup which can be a great form guide for the Ramornie in ten days’ time and the Grafton Cup Prelude where some horses can go on to run well in the Grafton Cup.

Look I may be biased as I have been coming to this Carnival for over thirty – YES 30 years – and this is one of Australia’s best country racing Carnivals. If you have not experienced the hospitality of the Clarence River Jockey Club, then I will strongly suggest you get your way to Grafton and have a wonderful time!

The track seems to have been unfortunately downgraded to a “heavy” after some recent rain in the area over the past week. I can only hope that it gets some sun over the coming days and we get a slight upgrade. The rail will be out 3 metres this weekend to protect that inside area for Carnival week.

WINNO – and HORSERACINGONLY.COM.AU will be in attendance over the Carnival with previews – photos and tips!

I am going to give you an absolute certainty for the Carnival – you can load up and have as much as you can! The BBQ ham rolls are the best tucker you can buy on a racecourse! Make sure you grab one and enjoy it if you get to the track.

NB: As this form assessment was made prior to race-day, please check final fields and track conditions for any changes on the day


Race 1

A tough way to open the Carnival with a two-year-old race with not much form disclosed. I would strongly suggest that you keep your eye on the markets come Sunday morning to see where the money goes.

I like the John Shelton trained Queenofthecastle (12) who is her third career start at her home track. Shelton is a master of setting his horses over this next two weeks – keep your eyes on his runners they normally win at any price!

Danny Bowen’s Gillick’s Way (13) has had two starts on soft tracks and seems to be on the improve He has drawn the rails, and this may be of benefit in the first race of the day – Matthew McGuren rides him. Matthew was the jockey of the Carnival in 2018!

Moonhawk (5) has been sent out at massive starts in both of his two starts and has run very well. This weekend he may face a tough task from barrier 16 with Raymond Spokes in the saddle.

The powerful Matthew Dunn stable had some wonderful success over the Carnival last year and won the trainer of the Carnival. He saddles up Vivendo Il Sogno (7) for his first career start. He has had four trials in the lead up to this run.

Sue Grills makes the trip down from Tamworth with her unraced Boomalong. He won a recent trial at his home track and looked solid winning that trial. She seems to always get some success here as well each year. Maybe she can win race 1 on day 1!

Selections: 11-13-5-7 rough chance 1


Race 2

A maiden over the mile.

Saintly Sunrise (6) has proven form on heavy tracks. He is coming back from a Class 1 race to maiden company for this run. The punters have rallied behind him and have backed him into $1.95 favourite in the early markets. Ben Looker, who loves this track, is in the saddle.

Miss Fraser (12) is trained by Kris Lees at Newcastle and will be ridden by Jason Taylor. She has been racing in Queensland over a mile on some tight tracks. I think getting to have a look at this Grafton track for the first time and with the big straight to wind up she may just show her best this weekend.

Local trainer Scott Henley trains Cheverny (2) and Anthony Allen will ride him this weekend for his third start this preparation. His recent races would suggest that he is looking for a mile.

She Won’t Listen (15) at $51 has made it into the field – I like her at the massive odds to fill a place.

Selections: 12-6-2-15


Race 3

Another maiden over a mile here.

I have punted on the only emergency Say It Ain’t So (15) getting into the field. This runner, trained by Brett Bellamy, has been racing well over these distances. He gets back and I think with the wet track he will be suited and could cause a major upset at around $31. I hope they can get him out of the barrier this weekend and position him a little further forward than his last few starts.

Tainted Affair (14) is trained by Tony Newing at Gosford and he has made several gear changes to this runner. Maybe the winkers on for the first time will see an improved performance. He is third up this preparation and may show up here.

Bruce Hill, from the Gold Coast, brings Whakarewarewa (9) down to Grafton after a very impressive effort last start at Doomben over a mile. That was only his second career start and he raced like he is one that will get further. Matthew McGillivray takes the ride here – I hope he enjoys the fresh NSW air (Go the BLUES).

Stirling Osland trains Stealthy who has drawn the rails and likes to lead in his races. He will get out and set up the tempo in front – if Matthew Paget gets his own way in front it may be all over.

Daramer (3) is a local rough chance.

Selections: 15-9-8-14 rough chance 3


Race 4

It looks like round two here in this race as well with Tony Newing and Stirling Osland both having solid chances in this race. This is the Grafton Guineas Prelude and these horses are usually competitive in the Guineas on Carnival week.

Newing trains Charmed Princess (1) who has won here previously and has some solid form on wet tracks. Matthew McGuren is aboard this runner. He has had a month between runs since winning at Canberra and since then has had a barrier trial where he wasn’t really asked for a solid effort.

The horse is part owned by the SJ Racing syndicate who has so much wonderful success over the 2018 Carnival with King Lear who recently passed away. He was a wonderfully talented sprinter who I thought was a contender for the Ramornie this year, however, he had a throat operation and Newing was hoping he would be racing towards the end of the year – but sadly this was not to be.

Osland trains Heaven’s High (8) who is second up here this weekend. He was great in the Toowoomba Guineas back in April and then went for a ten-week spell. He is second up this weekend. I thought the mile was too far at Toowoomba and this weekend 1410 metres will be right up his alley. Ben Looker rides him here.

Wotsizname (5) is locally trained by John Shelton and will be ridden by Matthew “Ranga” Bennett. He has won on soft tracks and last start was not suited by the Lismore track – forget that run entirely and go on his two consecutive wins here previous to that performance.

The stable mate is Julianne’s Wish (10) who won here last start on a soft track over this distance – she looks like one with plenty of improvement in her.

Seentoomany (3) is trained on the Gold Coast by Michael Costa – she has performed well on soft tracks.

Selections: 8-1-10-5 rough chance 3


Race 5

A Class 3 over 1106 metres. A tough field here.
Matthew Dunn has two solid runners.

Dram of Delago (3) is to be ridden by his stable apprentice Emily Atkinson. She has won on the track on soft ground.

Vernazza (6) is his other runner who will be ridden by Robbie Fradd. She won here last year over the Carnival – the NBN 2-Year-old plate a feature race. She raced at Randwick last start in a 1000 metre race and was beaten by her stablemate Lifesaver. I think that the 1000 metres didn’t suit her and back to the longer distance this weekend she should race well.

My selection is the Port Macquarie trained Tigers Image (4). He is a lightly raced 5-year-old who has very good form on heavy and soft tracks – so he will be well suited here. Young trainer Matthew McCudden trains this runner which will be ridden by Matthew Bennett.

Saxophone (5), who is trained locally, has solid wet track form and could show up at large odds.

Selections: 4-6-3-5


Race 6

This is a tough way to start the Quaddie. Not a race I am a big fan of.

Valley’s Sister (14) has drawn well and should race on the speed. She has raced well on soft tracks and the last start win at Taree was solid.

Dukatti (8) is trained by Stephen Lee at Ballina. This gelding has been performing well, without much luck. I think he’s downfall has been the smaller tracks he has been racing on recently where he really has struggled to wind up and get some clear running in the straights.

This weekend he gets everything in his favour at this large Grafton track. Ryan Maloney takes the ride.
Viserion (11) is trained by Mark Currie at Toowoomba and will be ridden by Brooke Stower. He has raced well on rain affected tracks and I think will go well here after his latest start at Toowoomba.

Chazelles (5) is another Matthew Dunn Racing runner to be ridden by Robbie Fradd. She was sensational first up on her home track at Murwillumbah when she won on a soft track in dominant form. She stepped up to a higher-grade race at Ipswich last start and was outclassed. Overlook that run and back in grade her she will go great.

Selections: 14-8-5-2 rough chance 11


Race 7

The Dunn Racing runner Sing Song (4) stormed home from an impossible position last start at Murwillumbah. I think that Robbie Fradd will bring her wide down the crown of this Grafton track on Sunday and she will destroy this field.

The Stephen Lee runner is See It Thru (3) to be ridden by Ryan Plumb from the Gold Coast. He has won on soft ground and his barrier trial a fortnight ago at the Gold Coast was solid enough to suggest he will be competitive here.

Mighty Mittere (5) raced well two starts ago on a heavy track and is trained by Ben Hull on the Gold Coast with Tegan Harrison to ride this gelding. He is third up this preparation – forget the last run at the Sunshine Coast.

My Best Seller (6) won at massive odds of $21 last start for local trainer John Shelton with Laura Cheshire in the saddle. The pair up again for his second career start looking to post back to back victories.

Spirit of Cherokee (9) has been well supported in the early markets.

Selections: 4-3-5-6 rough chances 9


Race 8 John Carlton Cup 2019

This is one of the feature races over the Carnival and horses that have run well here have gone onto do well in the Ramornie.

Malea Magic (11) has been racing in lower class races than this, however, looks a progressive type that is lightly raced. Bob Milligan trains this filly who has won her past two starts at Newcastle and Randwick. She will be ridden by Belinda Hodder this weekend and looks well placed.

She’s Choosie (16) has a tremendous record here at her home track and has always been competitive on soft ground. It is a family affair with Greg Kilner training this filly whilst Leah Kilner will ride her. Her last start at Ballina on a heavy track should be overlooked – they all were struggling to make ground on that day and she was first up after a nine week break.

Evopex (15) is trained at Coffs Harbour by Jim Jarvis who normally has some success over the Carnival each year. This runner normally performs better over 1400 metres. I think that if the track is wet then maybe this shall enhance his chances. He does race well on heavy tracks and has the services of jockey Jon Grisedale.

John Shelton trains Tarbert (2) who has noted form on soft tracks but has never seen a heavy track. He is first up this weekend after a 16-week spell – he has raced well in the past fresh. I think that he will probably run again over the Carnival so whatever he does here this weekend he will probably improve on next start.

Some rough chances are Patriot (5) from Port Macquarie and Dantga (9), trained locally, who has some very good form on heavy tracks.

Selections: 11-16-2-15 rough chances 5 & 9


Race 9

A good quality staying race to finish off the day with some of these heading to the Grafton Cup.

Jazzland (3), trained by Kim Buchanan, has been sensationally backed into $1.75 after opening around $2.90. His last start win at Gosford looked a good lead into this race. He has some solid heavy track form and probably looks the one to beat.

Proud Captain (5) is trained by Kris Lees and absolutely swims and will handle the ground well. He is down in the weights but up in class. Jason Taylor rides this one for the stable and he does ride this track well. At $7 I think he is a great chance each way.

Husonique (7) is trained in Tamworth by Leslie Jeffries. He races very well here at the Grafton track where he has three career wins. He handles the soft track and goes down in weight – could show up at some ridiculous odds here in the last race at $31.

Real Time Warrior (12) is up in grade but looks a good young stayer on the up. Joanne Hardy trains this runner and she has a knack of producing a nice runner over the Carnival each year.

The topweight Happy Go Plucky (1) has a massive 61 kilograms to carry here. He is the class runner of the field. He is proven on wet tracks – Ryan Plumb (the new King of the Gold Coast) is in the saddle for trainer John Gilmore. He probably will be in the first six in the running and will need to get a clear run and not lose momentum anywhere in the straight.

Selections: 5-3-1-12 rough chance 7


Jockey’s Challenge

Ben Looker and Matthew Bennett have some nice rides. I think I will declare a dead heat – both great riders here at Grafton and both good blokes.


Early Quaddie (races 2 to 5 NSW only)

,6,12 / 8,9,14,15 / 1,5,8,10 / 3,4,5,6 - cost is $192 to $1

Quaddie (races 6 to 9)

5,8,11,14 / 3,4,5 / 2,11,15,16 / 1,3,5 - cost is $144 to $1

Value Quaddie (races 7 to 10)

5,8,14 / 3,4,5 / 11,16 / 3,5 - cost is $36 to $1

Treble (races 8 to 10)

3,4,5 / 2,11,15,16 / 1,3,5 - cost is $36 to $1

BIG 6 (NSW only races 4 to 9)

1,8,10 / 3,4,6 / 5,8,14 / 3,4 / 2,11,16 / 3,5 - cost is $324 to $1


The Carnival will feature WINNO v another QLD muppet – Anthony Collins. This meeting we will not be tipping as he claims he wants to save himself for the feature days! I should claim a victory by default this weekend – but in fairness I will let him off. Stay tuned in the coming meetings for our tips and previews on Facebook and here.

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