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  • Provincial Racing NSW


HAWKESBURY trainer Steve O’Halloran fielded a call last year from a Queensland owner he had never met, asking him to train an unraced youngster.

He naturally accepted and hopes to repay that faith by breaking through with Royalify on his home track on Thursday.

Having only his sixth start and with three placings behind him, the Justify three-year-old is favorite for the HRC Motel Maiden Handicap (1600m).

Last season’s champion Sydney apprentice Zac Lloyd, who won last Saturday’s $1m Provincial-Midway Championships Final (1400m) on Territory Express, rides the gelding for the first time.

“Billy Xantos rang me out of the blue, and said he had been following my stable and asked if I would be interested in training a horse for him,” O’Halloran explained.

“He also gave me the opportunity to take a share in Royalify, who is a lovely big horse who stands around 16 hands.

“He was never going to be a two-year-old.”

O’Halloran gave Royalify three starts in provincial grade early in the season – and he ran fourth and third over 1300m at Hawkesbury in September.

“We stopped after he came to the end of his first preparation when unplaced at Newcastle in October, and took the opportunity to geld him,” O’Halloran said.

“I’m sure it has been the makings of him.

“His attitude is good, and he wants to please you in everything he does.”

Royalify has been placed at both runs since resuming; a close third to subsequent provincial winner Flying Bandit in a 1300m Super Maiden at Goulburn on March 24, and second to Trajectile in a 1500m Provincial Maiden Plate at Newcastle on April 6.

Royalify steps up to 1600m at Hawkesbury, and his trainer does not believe it will be a problem.

“He gives me a good feel in his work, even from early on, and the way he is racing suggests he will handle the distance,” O’Halloran said.

Royalify’s dam, the Artie Schiller mare Lady Melksham, won five races (four in town) in Victoria from 955m to 1200m, and also was placed twice over 1400m at Flemington.

His older half-sister Avon River (by Fastnet Rock) was a winner twice in Sydney in 2019, at 1300m and 1400m.

There will be no shortage of local opposition for O’Halloran’s favorite.

Mick Attard has Highland Eightgee (apprentice Braith Nock) and Gypsy King (Louise Day), James Ponsonby has Himeros (Tyler Schiller), and Mitch and Desiree Kearney will be represented by More Voltage (apprentice Jett Stanley) and Platinum Asset (Keagan Latham).

Dual acceptor More Voltage has been withdrawn from the TAB We’re On Maiden Plate (1400m), and no rider has been declared for Highland Eightgee in the same race.

O’Halloran, who has a full stable at present and trialled five of his team (including noted first-up performer Boomsong) at his home track on Tuesday morning, is keen to start Razella (Alysha Collett) in the 1400m Maiden Plate, but weather will be the determining factor.

“I took Razella to Goulburn on March 24 to resume in a 1500m Maiden Plate, but she didn’t go a yard in the wet ground, and ran last of five runners,” he explained.

“Razella has drawn the outside barrier at Hawkesbury, but she will run provided the track is okay and we’ll be positive on her.

“Alysha has ridden her twice for seconds at Wyong (1600m) and Newcastle (1890m) last November.”

The rail is 4m out from the 1100m to 450m, and in the TRUE position for the remainder of the circuit. Course manager Kyle Cassim at 8am Wednesday posted a “Good 4” rating, with a penetrometer reading of 5.23.

After 16 meetings this season, the current premiership standings are:


C. Waller 10

Team Snowden 7

G. Ryan/S. Alexiou 7

B. Widdup 6

G. Waterhouse/A. Bott 5

Team Attard 5


T. Schiller 11

J. Collett 9

K. McEvoy 8

Z. Lloyd (a) 6

A. Hyeronimus 5

M. Bell 5

T. Berry 5

R. King 5

R. Hutchings 5

Story John Curtis, April 17, 2024 - Pics supplied


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