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  • Provincial Racing NSW


HAVING swung the home turn in the closer at Kembla Grange yesterday, Ash Morgan’s confidence soared to believe he could wrap up a first ever five winners.

Unfortunately for him – and favorite backers - his mount The Englishman ($3) narrowly failed to overhaul Hawkesbury-trained Desi Emperor ($8.50) in a tight finish to the Benchmark 64 Handicap (1600m).

Ironically, the winner cost only $3000 as a yearling online in 2021, whereas The Englishman, who contested the Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) at the end of his previous campaign, fetched $200,000 when offered in New Zealand the same year.

“He was bolting when I pulled him to the outside, and I thought ‘we’ve got a fiver’,” Morgan admitted this morning.

“The Englishman wanted to lay in and as a result I couldn’t really get at him.

“He didn’t finish off as I felt he would, but it was still a pretty good day.

“That was my first provincial four-timer after also riding four winners at Armidale toward the end of last season.”

Morgan’s quartet at the Armidale meeting on June 6 was achieved on favorites (Blue Canasta, Devilicious, Vis I Do and Lost Media) from six rides on the seven-race program.

He was in a real purple patch of form at the time, having come off three trebles at Port Macquarie, Dubbo and Muswellbrook the previous week.

Those trebles and the Armidale haul contributed to his 94 winners for the 2022-23 season, following on from 136 in 2021-22.

Morgan’s Kembla Grange winners yesterday were Monopoly Girl ($6) and Midnight Opal ($1.40 favorite) for Newcastle trainers Sam Kavanagh and Nathan Doyle respectively, Nondisclosure ($7.50) for Ciaron Maher and David Eustace’s Warwick Farm stable, and Our Gold Hope ($7.50) for leading local trainers Rob and Luke Price.

Welsh-born Morgan, based at Newcastle, gave credit to his mentor, former Melbourne jockey James Winks, for his best day in the saddle on a provincial track.

“James has been working with me since May, and I really appreciate his help,” he said.

“He said to me beforehand that there didn’t appear to be much pace in a number of the earlier races.

“I took that on board and was a bit more aggressive, and it worked out well, leading throughout on my first three winners.

“I went to Kembla Grange yesterday thinking I could definitely win on Midnight Opal (the Deep Field three-year-old is now unbeaten from two starts), but certainly not getting four home.”

Monopoly Girl’s trainer Sam Kavanagh had hoped to clinch a two-track double, but Kayobi ($3.10 favorite) was an unlucky close second to $51 bolter Super Helpful in the last race at Rosehill Gardens.

Midnight Opal’s trainer Nathan Doyle also attempted a two-track double and met the same fate; Dalaalat ($11) finished second in the Class 6 Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm.

However, the Eagle Farm meeting was successful for fellow Newcastle trainer Kris Lees, who landed the Benchmark 80 Handicap (1830m) with former Victorian mare Blackcomb ($4.60).

Wyong trainer Sara Ryan finished second in the Listed Queensland Cup (2400m) at Eagle Farm with Parry Sound ($11).

Father and son trainers Rob and Luke Price continued their excellent form, clinching a double at their home meeting at Kembla Grange.

The Price boys also landed the Super Maiden Plate (1300m) with $6 chance Candlelit, who ran his rivals ragged to bolt home with five lengths to spare, and finished second in the Midway Handicap (1400m) at Rosehill with a gallant Satness ($15), who tried hard to repeat his Royal Randwick 1600m success three weeks earlier.

. Morgan was on the road again today for two rides – both Ciaron Maher and David Eustace – at Hawkesbury.

“David and myself worked together in the UK, and I rode some horses work for he and Ciaron from their Newcastle base yesterday morning at Broadmeadow,” he said.

“They gave me a couple of rides at Hawkesbury, and I was pleased to take them.”

Morgan finished the closest of seconds, beaten a nose by $2.35 favorite Gold Dust, on first starter Until Valhalla ($8.50) in the F&M Maiden Plate (1100m), before finishing fifth, edged out of third in the last few strides, on stablemate Hachiman ($16) in the CG&E division of the Maiden Plate (1100m).

His bag of winners at Kembla lifted his current season’s tally to 24, and he is on the road again tomorrow, heading back to the scene of his first four-timer at Armidale with a full book of seven rides.

*Story John Curtis, October 8, 2023 - Pics Bradley Photos*

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