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  • Provincial Racing NSW


“BIRTHDAY boy” Mark Minervini is confident Quick Tempo will have no trouble backing up at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday as he seeks to make the most of a special week.

The experienced Newcastle trainer celebrated his birthday yesterday by winning with Smiling Prophet at Wyong, and will have two runners in the $200,000 Listed Starlight Stakes.

Quick Tempo (Jason Collett) will be joined by a stable newcomer, New Zealand-owned Meritable (Dylan Gibbons), in the 1100m feature.

Quick Tempo surged home to finish second to Insurrection in the $300,000 The Warra (1000m) at last Saturday’s The Gong metropolitan meeting at Kembla Grange, and his trainer has no qualms about lining him up again a week later.

“I’ve backed him up a couple of times previously, so it’s not foreign to him,” Minervini said.

“Besides, he didn’t have a hard run last week, and really only had to sprint for the last 400m.

“Quick Tempo pulled up well, and I feel he is better going into this weekend’s race.

“Jason (Collett) sticks with him, and I’m sure he will run well again, and this week’s rain won’t be a worry either as he has won on both soft and heavy ground.”

Whilst Quick Tempo is the stable elect, Minervini is also looking forward to getting Meritable to the races.

A lightly-raced five-year-old by Snitzel, Meritable has won only the one race, but has been placed four times, including the 2021 Group 1 NZ 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton as an early three-year-old.

“Meritable’s owner Colin Wightman has around 20 broodmares and wants to stand the horse at stud in New Zealand when his racing career ends,” Minervini explained.

“Colin has interests in a few yearlings with me, but this will be our first runner for him.

“He wanted to give Meritable a try with me, and the horse is very well.

“I’m not expecting him to be winning at 1100m, and will be better suited when he gets up to 1400-1600m.”

Quick Tempo is a $4.60 second favorite for the Starlight behind the pacy Malkovich ($3.50). Meritable is one of the outsiders at $61.

Minervini, who also starts New Republic (Collett) in the Midway Benchmark 72 Handicap (2000m), prepared his fourth winner of the season when Smiling Prophet scored at Wyong yesterday, rekindling an association which started a couple of decades ago with jockey Kerrin McEvoy (both are expat South Australians).

McEvoy recalled “Minners”, as he referred to the trainer, when he was a kid and apprenticed on loan to Russell Cameron, being given a ride by Minervini at Morphettville.

“I have had a few rides for Mark since he relocated to New South Wales, and it’s nice to get a winner for him, especially on his birthday.” McEvoy said.

Minervini remembered the thrice Melbourne Cup winning jockey winning an Open Handicap (1050m) at Morphettville on $7 chance John’s Brother at Morphettville in April, 2002.

Leading Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup has the only other provincial representative in the Starlight.

He resumes five-year-old Sneaky Paige ($6), whom Sydney jockeys’ premiership front runner Tyler Schiller (31 metropolitan wins so far this season), will ride. The mare has won both her trials at Warwick Farm and Randwick this month leading up to her return, with Schiller aboard, and Widdup has decided to put a tongue tie back on her for the Starlight assignment.

*Story John Curtis, November 30, 2023 - Pics Steve Hart*

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