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  • Provincial Racing NSW


BEN Smith is looking ahead to the new year – and March 2 in particular.

The Group 1 winning trainer is setting his recent Brisbane winner West Of Dalby for the Inglis Sprint (1200m) at Flemington that day, and dearly would like to win the feature sprint for three-year-olds for the filly’s major part-owner Tory Lavalle for a very special reason.

“Tory named his racing business ML Racing in honour of his late brother Mick Lavalle, who died suddenly from a heart attack on the South Coast eight years ago,” Smith said.

“Understandably, he wants to win a big race and hopefully we can achieve that for him with West Of Dalby.”

The Santos filly has been resting since a breakthrough stakes victory in the Listed Mode Stakes (1200m) against her own sex at Doomben on December 2; her third win from only eight starts.

“West Of Dalby will come back into work shortly to be prepared for the Inglis Sprint,” Smith said.

“It’s worth a lot of money (a minimum $750,000), and she has already had experience on the Flemington straight course, finishing fifth there over 1000m against her own age on November 7 during the Melbourne Cup carnival.”

Smith is eyeing the Group 2 Light Fingers Stakes (1200m) against her own age and sex at Royal Randwick on February 17 as West Of Dalby’s lead-up to her Flemington assignment.

The former Newcastle and now Kembla Grange-based trainer knows how to win big races with the “girls”.

His two Group 1 triumphs in 2018 arrived courtesy of In Her Time (The Galaxy at Rosehill Gardens) and El Dorado Dreaming (Sires at Randwick) within a couple of weeks.

In the interim, Smith is looking for his first Sydney winner at Randwick tomorrow since resuming his training career 13 months ago after a lengthy self-inflicted hiatus.

“The first six months was very tough getting going again, but we’ve turned the corner,” he said.

“I’ve won a stakes race in Brisbane (West Of Dalby), so winning our first race in town from the Kembla base would be great, and we’ve got two good chances tomorrow,” he said.

Herb contests the Midway Benchmark 72 Handicap (1600m) and Whisky Wisdom lines up in the Benchmark 72 Handicap (1400m) against her own age. Brock Ryan will ride the stablemates.

Front concussion plates come off Herb, whilst blinkers replace winkers on Whisky Wisdom.

“Herb has had no luck at his last couple of runs,” Smith said. “He didn’t get a good crack at them when fifth over 1400m at The Gong meeting at Kembla Grange on November 25 and then was tardy away when fourth over 1550m at Canterbury last Friday night.

“He ran on well and the big track at Randwick is in his favour.

“Whisky Wisdom went super when seventh in a much stronger Listed 1600m Tails Stakes at Doomben on the same day West Of Dalby won. She lost her near hind plate in the run.

“She is returning to a Benchmark race, and looks really well placed. The only query is she is coming back to 1400m, and hence the blinkers are going on to hopefully sharpen her up.

“Brock (Ryan) rode her in a course proper gallop at home on Tuesday morning and was happy with her. I’m sure she will run well.”

Smith also has a runner at Canterbury tonight (Arale in the Benchmark 72 Handicap, 1550m), and another (Magnitudo in the Conditional Benchmark 68 Handicap, 1150m) on the Beaumont track at Newcastle tomorrow.

Robyn Freeman rides Arale, improved by two runs since resuming, and apprentice Jess Del Frari (who rode West Of Dalby in her debut success at Newcastle in April in a 900m Provincial 2 & 3YO Maiden) partners Magnitudo.

Newcastle trainers Rod Ollerton and Jay Hopkins are both chasing a Group 3 victory in the $300,000 Grand Prix Stakes (2100m), to be run at set weights for three-year-olds (won last year by Kovalica), at Eagle Farm tomorrow.

Ollerton runs Supercrisp (Robbie Dolan), and Hopkins will be represented by Sonofdec (Martin Harley).

The Autumn Sun colt Supercrisp is yet to win from five starts but was placed over 1600m at Scone last month, whilst Kermadec gelding Sonofdec has won two of his only three starts; the latest in a Class 1/Maiden Plate (1600m) at Tuncurry last Monday.

Story John Curtis, November 15, 2023 - Pics Trackside Photography

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