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  • Provincial Racing NSW


WYONG trainer Rod Bailey didn’t expect late starter Norton Road to make it two wins from as many starts at Newcastle yesterday.

But he got a pleasant surprise when his $7500 online buy led throughout in the Class 1 Handicap (1300m), lifting his earnings to $41,550 from two provincial victories.

“It was a pretty strong Class 1, and I didn’t expect him to win,” Bailey said today of the Stratum Star gelding, who is well into his four-year-old season.

“I intended to turn him out for a spell, and would have been satisfied with a Top 4 finish.

“He is still going out tomorrow for a break, but now I feel we might have a really nice horse in the making.

“I’ve been training for 33 or 34 years, and at this early stage of his career, Norton Road is probably as promising a horse as I’ve had.”

Raced by Bailey’s 23-year-old daughter Bridget, Norton Road debuted with an authoritative all the way performance at home in a Provincial Maiden Handicap (1200m) on January 18.

Wyong apprentice Anna Roper rode him then and again yesterday, posting her 54th win this season and maintaining a three-win lead over Sydney’s champion apprentice Zac Lloyd in the NSW premiership.

Norton Road again began smartly from an awkward draw, but Roper didn’t rush him, not taking him to the front until nearly 300m after the jump.

Once there he travelled strongly, gave a good kick after straightening and, despite shifting out and away from the whip on two occasions, held out $31 roughie Lika Sun’s late burst. The much boomed Frankel filly The Hawkesbury ($2.10 favorite), who had won on debut like Norton Road and also was having her second start, was third.

Bailey purchased Norton Road through Inglis Digital in March 2021, and explained why it has taken so long to get the gelding to the races.

“I really liked his pedigree being out of a Lonhro mare (Ransack), and knew he wasn’t going to be an early comer,” he said.

“He had a big frame but was really immature. It was like watching a jug of water boil; you had to wait until he was ready.”

Bailey trialled Norton Road at Rosehill Gardens on December 29 when, with Reece Jones aboard, he led throughout in a 1030m Maiden heat.

“He has a couple of good attributes,” Bailey said. “Not only does he have a big lengthy stride, but also a high cruising speed.

“We’ll look after him, and give him a good break.”

Norton Road was one of four provincial winners at the Newcastle fixture.

Kembla Grange’s Kerry Parker scored with topweight Allebasi ($13) in the Midway Maiden Handicap (1300m), Newcastle’s Paul Perry with another topweight General Soho ($4.20 favorite) in the Conditional Benchmark 68 Handicap (1400m), and Hawkesbury’s Ed Cummings with Cosmic Lad ($3.90) in the Provincial Class 1 Handicap (1500m).

Parker also prepared a double – Rapid Outlaw, $3.20 favorite, and The Gift, $13 – at the Sapphire Coast yesterday, and fellow Kembla trainers Rob and Luke Price and Theresa Bateup scored with Devine Outcast ($2.40 favorite) and Vain Invader ($5) respectively.

Ed Cummings could easily have started relative newcomer Cosmic Lad in a Super Maiden Handicap (1500m), but instead chose to step the three-year-old son of Cox Plate winner Adelaide up in class for his second start over the same distance at the meeting – and his move produced a super result. reported offering $19 in the lead-up to the race before Cosmic Lad firmed to start at $3.90, and stormed to an impressive victory.

Ridden by Jean Van Overmeire, Cosmic Lad settled back in the field from a wide barrier and raced keenly in the middle stages.

But once called on, he quickly gathered in his rivals in the straight and scored by two and three-quarter lengths from Newcastle pair, Paul Perry’s Outback Archie ($12) and Kris Lees’ Ideel Hero ($21).

Cosmic Lad, who was Cummings’ seventh winner of the season, began his career at a Canterbury night meeting on January 19 when, as a $61 rank outsider in a field of seven, he ran a close fourth to another debutante Turned Down in a 2 & 3YO Maiden Handicap (1250m).

He had trialled on three occasions over two preparations last year before trialling twice at Hawkesbury and Rosehill Gardens in December.

“Cosmic Lad didn’t go to the races until he was ready,” Cummings said today.

“Going on times he probably would have won the 1500m Maiden yesterday, but the Class 1 Handicap didn’t look any stronger and it was restricted to provincial horses.”

Cosmic Lad ran 1:29.65 in winning the Class 1, whereas Sunlord clocked 1:30.48 in taking the Super Maiden.

Cummings prepares Cosmic Lad for Graeme Troy and associates, and the gelding’s victory had an indelible link to the trainer’s legendary late grandfather, JB (Bart) Cummings.

The Hall Of Famer bred and trained Cosmic Lad’s dam Halimede (by Starcraft), and also trained his granddam Miss Meliss (by Zabeel).

Halimede’s sole win was in a Wyong Maiden Plate (1600m) in 2016, but she was placed eight times from 14 starts, and Miss Meliss also won only the one race (a Geelong Class 1 Handicap, 2455m in 2002) and was placed four times from 15 starts.

One of those placings was a close second in the Group 2 Saab Quality (2500m) at Flemington later that year, and three days later she ran 10th in Media Puzzle’s Melbourne Cup (3200m).

Meanwhile, Ed Cummings plans to trial his triple Group 1 winner Duais in a couple of weeks as he prepares her for autumn carnival assignments.

Cummings withdrew the six-year-old mare, now owned by Yu Long Investments, from a 900m Group trial on the course proper at Warwick Farm last Tuesday because she had a “bit of heel pain”.

Story John Curtis, February 4, 2024 - Pics Bradley Photos

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