MARK Minervini rued he could have had an even bigger celebration had a storm not cost him the chance to clinch a Wyong double today.
Whilst the Newcastle trainer was naturally delighted to win a race on his birthday – for the second time in three years – with Smiling Prophet ($8.50) in the NO EXCUSE FOR ABUSE F&M BENCHMARK 64 HANDICAP (1100m), he didn’t get the chance to also win the DIMENSION ONE GLASS FENCING CG&E BENCHMARK 64 HANDICAP (1100m) with Soobooco.
RacingNSW stewards called off the last two races due to ongoing storm activity, with lightning present and no imminent signs of improvement in the conditions.
“It was bad luck because Soobooco has started twice previously at Wyong for a win and a second,” Minervini said.
“He likes soft ground, and there was enough give in the trackafter the storm hit to suit him.
“I thought he was the better chance of my two runners.”
Minervini’s success with Smiling Prophet rekindled a successful association with the mare’s jockey Kerrin McEvoy. Both are expatriate South Australians, and the trainer recalled McEvoy winning a race for him on John’s Brother ($7) in an Open Handicap (1050m) at Morphettville on April 20, 2002.
McEvoy went even further back. “Minners put me on a horse at Morphettville when I was a kid and apprenticed to Russell Cameron on loan,” he said.
“I’ve had a few rides for Mark without getting the money since he relocated to New South Wales, so it was good to get that win for him on his birthday.
“The mare did a good job after being a bit steady into stride.”
Minervini also won a race with Quick Tempo (a 1000m Benchmark 66 Handicap) at Taree on his birthday two years ago.
He paid $35,000 for Smiling Prophet at the 2021 Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association yearling sale, and the now four-year-old mare has more than recouped her purchase price.
Today’s win was her third, following earlier victories at Newcastle and Scone, and she has earned nearly $100,000 (including a BOBS bonus).
“Smiling Prophet is built like a quarter horse, but is a really good mare on her day,” Minervini said.
“She has been a little bit in and out, but appreciated the fast pace up front and it was good to see her do it.”
Fancied pair Chilli Filly ($2 favorite) and Flying Rani ($3) took each other on in front, and were sitting shots in the straight.
After being last settling down on Smiling Prophet, McEvoy saved ground near the inside before switching her around the three horses in front after straightening.
Just as runner-up Maz Kanata ($8) burst through on the inside and was being hailed the winner, Smiling Prophet swooped and won convincingly.
Punters had crashed in the first three races when the favoritesall bit the dust.
Newcastle three-year-old Uncle Harry ($1.80) was never a winning factor when third in the MERCURE KOOINDAH WATERS CLASS 1/MAIDEN PLATE (2100m).
Gun apprentice Dylan Gibbons, who won the recent Four Pillars at Rosehill Gardens for Sydney trainer David Payne, again produced the goods to score on $13 chance Mist Of Battle.
Payne had wanted Mist Of Battle to be ridden more forward, and Gibbons did exactly that and produced a comprehensive victory over Shemran ($7.50).
Things didn’t go Uncle Harry’s way, and he didn’t get into the clear until it was too late, so his third placing should be forgiven.
Coincidentally, Mist Of Battle also started at $13 in his only previous win – in a Gosford Maiden (1900m) 12 months ago, when Gibbons also had the mount.
Locally-trained Red Cobra ($2.80 favorite) couldn’t reproduce his home track breakthrough on November 11, and both he and second favorite Avonview ($3.20) never got into the picture in the STOP ABUSE AT THE START MIDWAY CLASS 1 HANDICAP (1600m), finishing seventh and fifth respectively.
Jockey Jay Ford “stole” the race, getting his own way out in front on Kembla Grange mare Justela ($8), who easily defeated Really Motivated ($14) and Flying Step ($7.50).
The first three placegetters raced in those positions virtually throughout, so it was little wonder backmarkers weren’t able to make their presence felt.
Winning trainer Kerry Parker said the plan was to quicken from the 600m, but Ford was able to control the race and everything worked out well.
“Justela has been going well but her last couple of runs were in slowly run races and she wasn’t able to outsprint them,” he said.
Purchased online in September last year as an unraced early four-year-old for only $1250, Justela has won two races under Parker’s care and earned nearly $58,000.
Racing’s unkindest cut of all seemingly has done the trick for Vomo Island, who broke through in the 1800 RESPECT SUPER 3YO MAIDEN PLATE (1200m).
Returning as a gelding, he justified his $1.70 favorite quote by defeating Mathkhoora ($4.40) and One Last Shot ($6.50).
“The stallion dream is over,” said Snowden Racing’s Colum McCullagh. “He is a racehorse now, and looks a lot more genuine.
“Vomo Island had trialled up pretty well, and we were pretty confident he could win his first race.”
Kerrin McEvoy, who won the previous race on Smiling Prophet, said he had hoped to settle closer on Vomo Island, going on how he had shaped in his recent trials.
“His best work was the last part of the race, and I’m sure he is open to going a bit further in distance,” he added.
A son of Dundeel, Vomo Island had raced five times as a colt for four placings. His sole unplaced run was when unplaced in the Group 3 Ming Dynasty Quality (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens in early September, after which he was gelded.
Trainer Jarrod Austin says the best is yet to come from Look At Moi Kim ($3.30 favorite) in the CONGRATULATIONS TEAM WYONG EQUIMILLIONS 4YO & UP MAIDEN HANDICAP (1350m).
“She has always shown some ability, and there’s a fair bit more to come,” Austin said after the daughter of Smart Missile broke through at her sixth start, relegating Princess Thalia ($4.60) and Meerut ($3.40) into the minor placings in a close finish.
“Look At Moi Kim wobbled around at her first two runs back at Kembla Grange and wasn’t beaten all that far, and then ran off the track at Bathurst when runner-up.
“Once she has filled out and matured, I feel she will be a very nice horse in 12 months’ time.”
Stewards dismissed a protest lodged by Princess Thalia’s rider Jason Collett against the winner, alleging interference over the concluding stages.
Third placegetter Meerut was game after being forced to race wide throughout, and deserves a change of luck.
There was no more impressive winner than Bojangles in the WELCOME KINGSTON INGLIS PROVINCIAL MAIDENPLATE (1100m); the last race run before the storm arrived.
The lightly-raced three-year-old, prepared locally by Kim Waugh, was having only his third start and first since July, and justified his short quote ($1.40 favorite).
Held up for clear running rounding the home turn, Bojangles sprinted quickly once Tommy Berry got him into the clear and his win was “soft” at the end over another local, Damien Lane’s All Too Zatso ($11), who also was held up for clear running at a similar stage, and Rum Diary ($4.80).
“He is only a little fella, and we tipped him out after his first two runs,” Waugh said. “He had a setback after one nice trial (third on the Beaumont track on October 24), but had a jumpout last week and showed he was back on track.”
There was extra significance for Waugh getting Bojangles’ maiden victory out of the way. He is a son of her former good mare Hetty Heights, who won a heat of the Provincial Championships at home in 2016 and was black type placed.
“Bojangles has a very similar personality to Hetty Heights, and I’m sure he will end up as good as her,” she said.