KEMBLA GRANGE trainer Michelle Ritchie is hoping a change of rider could be the key to securing a $150,000 Provincial Qualifier with her five-year-old Better Not Blue.
The gelding is the $4.60 early favourite in Thursday’s 1350m Wyong Qualifier, which kicks off the 2017 Provincial Series. The race, to be run at 5.05pm, has attracted a strong field of 15 including eight locally trained horses.
Better Not Blue was third in last year’s Wyong Qualifier, behind the Kim Waugh trained Supreme Effort. He went on to contest the final at Randwick finishing seventh but just three and a half lengths behind the winner Kris Lees’ Danish Twist.
“He’s grown up a lot in the past year and I’m happy with his two trials leading into this race,” Michelle said. “He was a bit fat in the first trial but after the second Josh (Parr) said he’s absolutely spot on.
“I’ve got Josh to ride him at Wyong because I’ve been very happy with how he rode him in the trials.
“I wanted someone who could use the whip in the right hand and Josh doesn’t have a problem with that. “Blue needs to be ridden quiet and Josh hasn’t geed him up too much in the trials.”
Michelle isn’t fazed with drawing relatively wide in barrier nine, describing it as “perfect.”
“I didn’t want him in any closer because he doesn’t like being jammed up.
“He panics when he gets in too close so I’m really happy with the draw.
“I am hoping Josh can get him to settle mid-field. He used to get back in his races but last prep he was inclined to be more on the speed. “Last year I was worried that Wyong might not have suited him because he likes a long straight.
“Fortunately it didn’t seem to be a problem and with him maturing a lot since then I hope he can handle it again.”
Michelle purchased Better Not Blue for just $10,000 at a Magic Million Horses in Training sale and the gelding has now amassed more than $200,000 in prizemoney with four wins and eight placings to his name including a second in the Listed Civic Stakes at Rosehill in July last year.
“He’s been a wonderful little horse for me and hopefully there are more wins to come this preparation.”
A champion in the show arena, Michelle trains four horses at Kembla and will head to the Canberra Royal Show on Friday hopefully after celebrating a Provincial Qualifier victory.
Les Tilley’s Another Aan is the most favoured of the local runners currently listed as a $7 chance.
The five-year-old, raced by Les, has drawn barrier two and will be ridden by champion jockey Robert Thompson.
Another Aan is resuming from a spell but has had two trials leading into the race.
The Jeff Engelbrecht stable has two runners Hammond Lane (Jason Collett) and Lady Jivago (Grant Buckley) both listed as $11 chances.
Kim Waugh’s lightly raced Star Witness gelding Bao Zheng, drawn wide in 12 with Tim Clark in the saddle, is at odds of $26 but was impressive finishing second at his last start over 1350m on the Wyong track.
Damien Lane has engaged leading country Greg Ryan for All But Gone ($26), while Allan Kehoe’s Epic Dan ($51) shooting for three successive wins will be ridden by Tye Angland.
Fellow Wyong trainers Brian Garvey and Norman Rogers have Libertine Miss ($101) and Alaskan Wolf ($51) respectively.
Leading Provincial trainer Kris Lees is hoping to emulate his 2016 Provincial Final success and has four runners in the field, his best prospect likely to be Princess Posh ($8) who is shooting for her third successive win.
RACE 1 – 1:20PM INSURANCE HOUSE 3YO MAIDEN HANDICAP (1200M): 1 LADY DANE, 2, Dominant Crown, 3 Mandalong Belle, 4 Istria.
RACE 2: – 1.55PM DIGGA 2YO MAIDEN PLATE (1300M): 1 THE MISSION, 2 Coulthard, 3 Momentum To Win, 4 Toga Picta.
RACE 3: – 2.35PM BRIAN HILTON KIA MAIDEN HANDICAP (1000M): 1 SEEBLUMNE, 2 American Moments, 3 Thistledo, 4 Lana’s Magic.
RACE 4: – 3.10PM PFERD METRO & PROV MAIDEN PLATE (1350M): 1 SRETAN, 2 It’s So Obvious, 3 Tutu, 4 Siren’s Fury.
RACE 5: – 3.45PM STRAMIT BUILDING PRODUCTS CLASS 2 HANDICAP (1300M): 1 RETALIATION, 2 Caesar’s Ghost, 3 Hinch, 4 So Spirited.
RACE 6: – 4.25PM PRO ALI DESIGN CLASS 1 HANDICAP (1000M): 1 CLEVEDON BAY, 2 Back To Jacko, 3 Postmaster General, Allegheny.
RACE 7: – 5.05PM THE PROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIPS QUALIFIER (1350M): 1 PRINCESS POSH, 2 Better Not Blue, Noble Joey, Lady Jivago.
RACE 8: – 5.40PM MILWAUKEE BENCHMARK 70 HANDICAP (1600M): 1 CLASSIC RECORDS, 2 Crosley Hotshot, 3 Tumultuous, 4 Kiseki Dane.