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RACING NSW has finalised spring feature stand-alone dates for Newcastle and Kembla Grange.

The $1m The Hunter (1300m) will be run at Newcastle on November 18 and the $1m The Gong (1600m) at Kembla Grange a week later.

Newcastle’s Saturday metropolitan meeting will again also feature the $250,000 Group 3 Spring Stakes (1600m) for three-year-olds, $300,000 Beauford Handicap (2300m) for stayers, and Max Lees Classic (900m) for two-year-olds.

Kembla Grange’s Saturday fixture also features the $300,000 The Warra (1000m) for sprinters.

Godolphin’s James Cummings landed last year’s The Hunter with Vilana (Nash Rawiller), and Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott were successful in the The Gong with Riodini (Tim Clark).

The dates were confirmed Saturday night in the wake of Racing NSW’s announcement of a new spring carnival highlight, the $5m WFA King Charles III Stakes (1600m), which will be run alongside a record $20m The Everest (1200m) at Royal Randwick on October 14.

The King Charles Stakes replaces the George Main Stakes, and retains Group 1 status.

The Newcastle Gold Cup program is scheduled for Friday, September 15, with the Group 3 Cup (2300m) to carry a record $300,000 purse – up $50,000 on last year.

The Cameron Handicap (1500m) and Tibbie Stakes (1400m) – which also carry Group 3 status – have also had $50,000 increases, each rising to $250,000.

Meanwhile, Provincial trainers claimed three of the eight races at Saturday’s Newcastle TAB fixture.

Kembla Grange’s Paul Murray won the Class 1/Maiden Plate (2300m) with $1.50 hotpot Winning Point, Wyong’s Kristen Buchanan the Class 1 Handicap (1400m) with Epicus ($4 favorite), and Hawkesbury’s Jason Attard and Lucy Keegan-Attard the Port Stephens Cup (a 1600m Conditional Benchmark 68 Handicap) with Ruby Flyer ($7).

Jean Van Overmeire partnered both Winning Point and Epicus, and Rory Hutchings had the mount on Ruby Flyer.

Winning Point, a three-year-old Bull Point filly, fetched only $6000 at the HTBA yearling sale at Inglis’ Riverside complex in 2021, and has now won twice from nine starts.

Former Sydney three-year-old Epicus has thrived under Buchanan’s care and has quickly returned the $40,000 Calibre Racing outlaid to secure him online in April.

The Capitalist gelding has raced four times for his new trainer, and has won twice and finished second, and earned more than $62,000.

Epicus’ Class 1 Handicap was restricted to Provincial horses, and proved a triumph for Wyong trainers, who filled the three placings.

Kim Waugh’s Always In ($5) was second, and Damien Lane’s Oakfield Redgum ($5.50) third.

Ruby Flyer’s impressive victory – his third from four starts since a break – was popular as far afield as the United Kingdom.

Jason Attard’s wife and co-trainer Lucy is visiting family abroad, and Jason was at Royal Randwick where Knight, their Hawkesbury Saturday stand-alone winner from last year, began a new campaign after a lengthy absence from the track.

“I’m sure Ruby Flyer is up to city class, and we’ll look for a suitable race for him in town in the coming weeks,” Jason Attard said.

“He was caught wide when unplaced at Warwick Farm at his previous start, and I was pretty confident he could get back into the winning list yesterday, going back to provincial company and drawing the inside barrier.

“My only concern was the ‘Good 4’ surface, as I wondered if he might simply be a wet tracker like his mother (Kellyville Flyer, who won twice in Sydney on heavy ground and was also placed in a Group 3 Newcastle Newmarket on a soft surface).

“Both Ruby Flyer’s previous wins at Wyong and Hawkesbury were on soft ground.”

*Words John Curtis, June 25, 2023 - Pic Bradley Photos*

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