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  • Provincial Racing NSW

WYONG PARTICIPANTS STEAL THE SHOW


ALLAN Kehoe brought off a superb training performance yesterday to win a city race with a much-travelled Group 1 winning nine-year-old, and Anna Roper rode her first Saturday winner in town for trainer Sara Ryan and then doubled up with the Coonabarabran Cup today.

Roper’s master, trainer Damien Lane, joined in to shake off a mare’s maiden tag at Narromine at her 14th start, making it truly a weekend to remember for Wyong participants.

Kehoe’s victory with Dark Dream ($7.50) in the Benchmark 90 Handicap (2212m) at Eagle Farm had special significance – and not only for the fact that it was the gelding’s first success in 21 months.

“I broke him in, so he’s come home,” a proud trainer said this morning as he and his family prepared to make the return trip to Wyong.

“We left on Wednesday evening with Dark Dream and got to Brisbane around 3.30 on Thursday morning.

“He had a rest for a couple of hours, and then I took him on a lap around Doomben racecourse.”

Jockey Ryan Maloney seized the initiative when he took up the running on Dark Dream entering the back straight and, despite being seriously challenged in the home straight by runner-up Red Wave ($4.40), wouldn’t surrender despite conceding him 4.5kg.

That was his eighth career win – and first since January 15 last year at Flemington in a Benchmark 100 Handicap (1700m) when trained by brothers Ben and JD Hayes.

Kembla Grange’s multiple Group 1 winner Kerry Parker was Dark Dream’s original trainer and won four races with him, culminating with his maiden success at racing’s elite level in the 2018 Queensland Derby (2200m), run at Doomben that year instead of Eagle Farm.

Owner Mary Basson, who bred Dark Dream by mating a mare (Buchanan Girl) she bought for $800 at a broodmare sale with All American, subsequently sold the gelding to Hong Kong interests.

He won twice there – both over 2000m at Sha Tin in December 2018 and April 2019 – for trainer Frankie Lor, and David Hayes prepared the gelding for his last two unplaced runs before sending him back to Australia in 2021 to his sons Ben and JD.

“When Mary sold Dark Dream for something like $2.8m, he was the highest-priced gelding to go to Hong Kong,” Kehoe said.

“The plan was for him to go back to her when the Hayes boys decided to retire him.

“I have broken in all her horses, and train a few for her as well as Dark Dream.

“I also have his half-brother Dragon Dream (who has won four races), and his lightly-raced younger three-year-old brother Lone Star Dream (who has started only twice) and four-year-old sister Graceful Dream, who made her debut at Newcastle last week.

“Mary has a property in the Southern Highlands, and asked me to go and have a look at Dark Dream.

“I did and left him there for another six weeks before we put him back into work.

“Dark Dream is 100 per cent sound, and carries on as though he is a two-year-old.

“Though he is a stayer, I train him like a 900m horse. We don’t do a lot with him, and have raced him to get him fit.

“I thought he was a bit unlucky not to have won the Taree Cup when third at his previous start. He was left flat-footed on the home turn.”

A skilled horseman who broke in Black Caviar’s first couple of foals (Oscietra and Prince Of Caviar) and also 2016 Group 1 Caulfield Guineas winner Divine Prophet, Kehoe and family headed home today – but without Dark Dream.

“My foreman flew up from Newcastle early this morning, and will look after the horse,” Kehoe said.

“There’s another Benchmark 90 Handicap over 2200m at Eagle Farm in a fortnight. Dark Dream is fit now, so we may as well have a crack at another one.”

Talented apprentice Anna Roper made the most of a rare city opportunity to post her first Saturday success in town when she led throughout on Wyong trainer Sara Ryan’s tough gelding Much Much Better ($9) in the Benchmark 88 Handicap (1200m).

The 21-year-old only recently won her first city race, on $21 shot Lady Redwood for Kembla Grange trainer Paul Murray at Warwick Farm on October 2.

Roper has now ridden 25 winners – including a Coonabarabran treble today - since returning to race riding after a serious knee injury from an after-race incident at Muswellbrook in late November last year sidelined her for eight months, lifting her career tally to 801.

She had Much Much Better away smartly at Randwick and, despite being pressured throughout by the $4.20 favorite Tristate (who ran fourth), was never concerned.

“Half way along the straight I thought I’ve got this in the bag,” she said afterwards.

“Sara had warned me about Much Much Better’s pre-race antics, and he nearly dumped me off on the way to the gates.

“It was a good opportunity to ride at Randwick on a Saturday meeting to get the experience.”

Roper won both features at today’s Showcase meeting at Coonabarabran, landing the Sprint (1200m) on Scarzel ($4.20) and Cup on Scorched Land ($7.50), along with Dirty Merchant ($3.40) in the Class 2 Plate (1200m).

Roper’s master Damien Lane also was in the winning list yesterday, at Narromine.

He captured the Maiden Plate (1100m) with $6 chance Alegna, ridden by Jake Pracey-Holmes.

The five-year-old American Pharoah mare had been placed on three occasions in her previous 13 starts.

. Last season’s national jockeys’ premiership victor Aaron Bullock also made the most of a rare visit to town on a Saturday by going home with a double.

Bullock won successive races on Whodat ($4.60 co-favorite) in the TAB Highway Handicap (1800m) and Peace Officer ($3.60 favorite) in the Midway Handicap (1400m), and nearly made it three in a row when Newcastle trainer Mark Minervini’s $31 roughie Raging Bull was a close second in the Benchmark 88 Handicap (2000m).

. Kembla Grange trainers Kerry Parker and Ross McConville came up trumps at their home track Legends raceday yesterday.

Parker took the Midway Maiden Handicap (1600m) with $2.35 favorite Ramble On in a tense finish, and McConville the Provincial Benchmark 64 Handicap (1400m) with another favorite Burning Need ($4.20), who again showed her liking for her home track.

All the seven-year-old mare’s five wins have been at Kembla Grange.Kembla Grange trainers Kerry Parker, Paul Niceforo and Ross McConville came up trumps at their home track Legends raceday yesterday.

Parker took the Midway Maiden Handicap (1600m) with $2.35 favorite Ramble On in a tense finish, Niceforo scored with Departing Bullet ($21) in the Conditional Benchmark 68 (1600m) and McConville the Provincial Benchmark 64 Handicap (1400m) with another favorite Burning Need ($4.20), who again showed her liking for her home track.

All the seven-year-old mare’s five wins have been at Kembla Grange.

*Story John Curtis, October 22, 2023 - Pics Trackside Photography*

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