Local jockey Peter Graham and trainer Tas Morton combined with an upset win with O'Driscoll ($13) in a Mid-North Coast dominated finish to the $32,000 Wauchope RSL Club Cup (1506m) at Port Macquarie Racecourse before a big crowd on Sunday.
Graham was raised in Wauchope and Morton has business interests in the area, both now live in Port Macquarie.
A plan hatched after the five-year-old gelding came last by just over 10 lengths in the Wingham Cup (1600m) at Taree on June 7 came to fruition for O'Driscoll,
Instead of engaging in a frantic pace up front, Graham was able to relax O'Driscoll early to score its fifth win, all at the distance, at the track.
Morton and Graham decided to hold up O'Driscoll early this time and from 8th mid-race, the gelding circled the field up to seven-wide to score by a half-length from $3.20 favourite Fuel, trained at Taree by Wayne Wilkes and ridden by Louise Day, which tried to lead all the way.
Wilkes and Day from Ireland combined to win the Wingham Cup with Subtle Grey
My horse loves this track.Trainer Tas Morton
"My horse loves this track," a jubilant Morton exclaimed in winning his first Wauchope Cup.
"It is a fantastic race to win with a beautiful cup I will fill and have a celebration drink later," he told the crowd at the presentation.
He was especially pleased to receive the cup from the club's Ray Knapp as he and Morton were in Vietnam together.
Graham said he was a Wauchope "boy" growing up and the win was "very satisfying".
"I have won a lot of races for the club and I know this horse well."
Half a length back in third was Taree's mare Cash Spinner ($41), scratched by a vet at the starting gate for the Wingham Cup for perceived soreness, but connections convinced stewards that she always paraded as though her back leg was a problem but it was just part of her gait.
Owner Gary Rowlings had visions of winning at Port when she loomed large halfway down the straight for trainer Ross Stitt but she just failed and beat home $3.40 hope, Port's five-year-old gelding Cogliere, trained by Marc Quinn, which may have found the fence softer than that wider out.
O'Driscoll has automatic entry to the $50,000 South Grafton Cup early next month and others in the field could be heading that way also.
The meeting was a benefit for local trainers in scoring wins in six of the eight races, the Bob Milligan stable from Taree having a winning double with Toast ($6.50), ridden by Wauchope jockey Belinda Hodder, scoring by nearly two lengths in the Wauchope Real Estate Benchmark 58 Handicap over 1296m and Valley's Sister ($7) ridden by Matt Bennett, bolting in by nearly four lengths in the NBN Television Country Only 3YO Maiden over 1206m.
Port Macquarie trainers Jenny Graham won with Veganza ($2.60), a mount for Ben Looker, in the Craig Chapman Builders Maiden 1506m, Neil Godbolt and Louise Day combined with a win with two-year-old gelding Full Of Spirit ($2.10) in the Wauchope Maiden Plate over 1106m, and John Sprague had the services of rejuvenated jockey Aaron Bullock for a tradesmanlike win with Patriot ($3) in the M & S Print Wauchope Sprint over 1106m.
Other winners were Lu's In Charge ($16), trained at Hawkesbury by Terry Croft and ridden by Port apprentice Liam Blanch for his 8th win in the Construction & Cladding Australia Class 1 Handicap over 1206m and another for Bullock riding for Newcastle trainer Kris Lees with smart filly Scenic Sight ($2) in the Port City Class 2 Handicap over 1506m.
"She was strong to the line, will win more races, and get further," Bullock said.
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