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ONE provincial trainer is excited – and another terribly disappointed!

Kembla Grange’s Ben Smith is back in Melbourne with a team of four horses for the first time in six years, whilst Gosford’s Angela Davies understandably was downcast this morning having to miss out on his first ever runner there from her boutique Central Coast stable.

Smith returns to The Valley’s Cox Plate carnival with three representatives; the same track where his former classy mare In Her Time was nudged out by Hey Doc in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes in 2017.

And he has his 2023 team stabled at the same Flemington barn where In Her Time was housed.

On the other hand, Davies was forced to pull the pin on a start for her wonderfully consistent mare Alicia Roma (five wins and five placings from 10 starts) in tomorrow night’s third heat of the 55 Second Challenge (955m) series at The Valley.

Further, she was resigned to handing over the daughter of Your Song and unraced Lonhro mare Romabella to father and son Peter and Paul Snowden to continue training her.

“Alicia Roma tied up (comparable to humans suffering severe cramps) this morning, and can’t run at The Valley,” Davies said.

“It’s rotten luck. This looked a really suitable race for her, and she was going to be my first starter in Melbourne.

“I’ve had to scratch her with a vet certificate. I’ll look after the mare, and probably return home in the morning and leave her with the Snowdens.”

Smith, meanwhile, has been in Melbourne since last Monday week with his four horses – Whisky Wisdom, West Of Dalby, Mah Ali and Vieste.

“With the inside track refurbishment going ahead at home, I came to Melbourne early to ensure we were able to work on the grass,” he said.

Whisky Wisdom contests the Benchmark 78 Handicap (1600m) tomorrow night, and West Of Dalby (Listed Crockett Stakes, 1200m) and Mah Ali (Group 2 Vase, 2040m) line up on Saturday.

Former Sydney jockey Winona Costin, now based in Melbourne, will ride the Smith trio.

“Whisky Wisdom will go to the Inglis Bracelet (1600m) at Flemington on Oaks day (Thursday, November 9),” Smith said.

“Saturday’s Vase against the boys will be Mah Ali’s lead-up to the Group 1 Oaks (2500m) against her own sex.

“West Of Dalby is resuming on Saturday, and that will be her lead-up to the Red Roses Stakes (1100m), also for three-year-old fillies, at the Oaks meeting.”

Vieste, the fourth member of Smith’s Melbourne team, will start in the Group 2 Wakeful Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on Saturday week.

“Hopefully she will back up and join Mah Ali in the Oaks,” Smith said.

Both Vieste and Mah Ali shed their maiden status by winning out of their class at Newcastle on September 30.

Vieste landed a Provincial Benchmark 64 Handicap (1850m) at $61, and Mah Ali a Class 1 Handicap (1500m) at $21.

Smith is in for a busy week. Apart from his Melbourne runners, he has Zenti (Robyn Freeman) resuming in the Provincial Benchmark 68 Handicap (1000m) at Gosford today, and Herb (Freeman) resuming in the Conditional Benchmark 68 Handicap (1300m) at Kembla Grange on Saturday.

She’s Jessie and Wilkshire line up at Taree on Monday, and Kembla apprentice Jess Del Frari will partner that pair.

Provided Herb, who made the Provincial-Midway Championship Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick in early April by finishing second in a home 1400m Qualifier in late February, races up to expectations and pulls up well, Smith intends to back him up in the $500,000 Four Pillars Midway (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens a week later.

*Story John Curtis, October 26, 2023 - Pic supplied*

Michael Craig's selections:

Race 1: 7 Icebreaker today’s extra distance will suit

8 Bright Red will be finishing hard

1 Counter caught wide on turn last start

Race 2: 2 Vegas Outlaw could improve sharply 2nd up

7 Amigos No More hitting peak form

4 Tartana up in grade but shows promise

Race 3: 6 Parisian Rose flashed home to win on debut

4 She’s A Bad Girl not a bad effort last start

1 My Eloise inside draw will suit

Race 4: 6 Miss Reilly good runs at only 2 starts

5 Heads You Lose could go well on debut

8 Sir Maurice not a lot of luck last start

Race 5: 6 Dolcino dual acceptor with strong claims here

7 Duke Of Lancaster handy recent trial effort

1 Escutcheon finished a nice 2nd at only start

Race 6: 4 Speymalt could be hard to hold out

8 Callistemon looks to have improved this preparation

9 Emmadella fought on strongly at Newcastle

Race 7: 7 November Falls solid win when resuming

2 All Machiavellian made up plenty of ground last start

3 Headstock racing very consistently

Race 8: 3 Clear Choice top effort first up

1 Happy Saturday tuned up with 4 recent trials

5 Ring Ahoy could perform well fresh

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