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  • Provincial Racing NSW


TO say it has been a frustrating season to date for Edward O’Rourke would certainly be an understatement.

Six placegetters from only 26 starters, which include a horse who lost its rider and another who failed to finish, just about sums it up.

And that’s aside from a promising young horse who nearly gave him a city breakthrough earlier in the season having a setback and needing a lengthy break.

But the Hawkesbury trainer is looking on the bright side as he takes a new acquisition to the races on the Kensington track on Thursday for the Anzac Day meeting.

O’Rourke will run Barellan Bandit in the Benchmark 72 Handicap (1400m), with Rachel King aboard.

The seven-year-old gelding has never won first-up from five previous attempts, but his trainer makes an important point about his prospects this time.

“He has never previously had three trials leading into a resumption,” O’Rourke said.

“Barellan Bandit trialled twice earlier for me and had a bit of a break before winning his latest at Hawkesbury on April 16.”

That was a trial which could hardly be missed.

Rachel King bounced him away smartly in a 1250m heat, and he quickly established a tidy lead and scored by more than three lengths without being put under any pressure.

“Rachel was just a passenger that day,” O’Rourke said.

“You worry sometimes about easy trials such as that, but the horse is going well.

“He hasn’t raced since late August and we had a few things to sort out with him, but he is ready to go back to the races.”

O’Rourke has had a good association with the Ramsey family, and takes over Barellan Bandit’s preparation from the gelding’s previous Scone trainer John Ramsey.

Though he is rising eight years of age, Barellan Bandit has started only 34 times for seven wins and five placings.

Those placings include a third in the South Grafton Cup (1610m) last July behind accomplished city grade horses Cepheus and Cotehele.

In a small Kensington field with the likelihood of only eight starters, Barellan Bandit on Wednesday morning appeared over the odds at $26 with

The gelding is one of two provincial runners, with Gosford’s Greg McFarlane starting The Great Houdini, to be ridden by last weekend’s Perth The Quokka winning jockey Josh Parr.

“It’s been the slowest start to a season I have had,” O’Rourke said.

“But we’ve got predominantly a lot of young horses, and things rarely go smoothly with them.

“Hopefully, things are ready to turn around for us.”

O’Rourke had high hopes for the promising Iron Man, who was narrowly beaten by Bunker Hunt (coincidentally lining up against Barellan Bandit on the Kensington track) in a Midway Benchmark 72 Handicap (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens on September 9 last year.

The now Exosphere four-year-old, another member of the Ramsey Pastoral team, then ran sixth to Whinchat in a similar race at the same track over 1400m 18 days later.

“Unfortunately, he went in the wind that day and required surgery and a good break to recuperate,” O’Rourke said.

“He has back in work now, and about a month off being ready to trial.”

Story John Curtis, April 24 - Pics Bradley Photos

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