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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


WEDNESDAY: September 6, 2023: IT’S not a football (soccer) World Cup match, but the rivalry will still be keen when a pair of Hawkesbury trainers strive for a new season breakthrough at home tomorrow.

“It’s France versus Italy again,” said French-born Marc Chevalier, whose mare Criminal Art ($8.50 with takes on Italian expat Fabio Martino’s odds-on favorite Mr Papera ($1.85) in the Ontrak Group Provincial Maiden Handicap (1500m).

To add to the international flavour, Irish woman Louise Day (Criminal Art) opposes her New Zealand-born rival Alysha Collett (Mr Papera).

Italy (four) and France (two) have won six World Cups between them, and their rivalry was never more evident than in the 2006 Final in Berlin when Italy defeated France 5-3 in a penalty shootout after the teams had drawn 1-1 at the conclusion of extra time.

France’s Zinedine Zidane, playing his final match for his country, scored his side’s sole goal but was sent off in extra time for headbutting an Italian rival.

There will be no such drama irrespective of the Hawkesbury result tomorrow, but both local trainers are certainly keen to get “bragging rights” and put their name on the scoreboard to get the 2023-24 racing year up and running.

Martino, who prepared his sole winner to date when Eliseo scored at Canberra last November, is understandably hoping Mr Papera can break his “duck” after being placed five times (the last three this preparation) from his last six starts.

“Papera is the Italian word for duck, and this horse had flat feet when my father Paolo purchased him,” Martino explained this morning.

“He was a bit turned out as well, and looked something like a duck.

“As a result of his flat feet, we didn’t start racing him until 12 months ago as an early four-year-old.

“The happiness of the horse is most important, and he was starting to come right toward the end of that first preparation, and is even better this time back as his three runs have shown.

“Mr Papera is very honest, and gets his chance to break through tomorrow. This race doesn’t appear to be the strongest, and hopefully he can finally get his Maiden out of the way.”

A Winning Rupert five-year-old, Mr Papera is the first foal of the New Zealand mare Mae West, whose consistent seven-start career yielded two wins and five placings.

He hasn’t been beaten far at all three runs this campaign; twice at Newcastle and then at Wyong on August 27 (when fellow Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup’s Sacred Girl took the honours in a 1600m Maiden Plate).

Rival trainer Chevalier says his representative Criminal Art is a winning possibility and definitely a “Top 3” prospect.

A four-year-old Artie Schiller mare, she has been placed at her last three runs on country tracks; twice at Moruya and the other at Taree.

Her Taree 1600m conqueror last month The Coat Hanger scored again at Coffs Harbour earlier this week.

“Criminal Art was very nervy earlier in her career, but is more relaxed now,” Chevalier said.

“For various reasons, she has been a bit unlucky at all three recent starts.

“She is getting stronger, and I feel is ready to step up to provincial company. I’ve seen tougher country Maidens than tomorrow’s race.”

Chevalier reported his good stayer, the seven-year-old stallion Torrens, has come through his return race well at Royal Randwick last Saturday.

“The 1600m was too short, but it was a good starting point and he has pulled up super,” he said.

“The weather this time looks to be on our side, as I won’t run him again on heavy ground. He pulled a muscle in the Chairman’s Quality (2600m) at Randwick in April, and didn’t proceed to the Sydney Cup (3200m).

“Torrens will go to the Kingston Town Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on Saturday week, and that will be too short for him as well.

“But then he will ready for The Metropolitan at the same track a fortnight later, where he has won three races at Randwick over the 2400m.”

Torren’s Listed Christmas Cup victory at headquarters last December provided Chevalier with a city breakthrough.

Including Mr Papera, there are three odds-on favorites tomorrow; the others being the Gai Waterhouse/Adrian Bott pair Ganbare ($1.85 in the Griffin Air Conditioning Class 1 Handicap, 1600m) and Royal Tribute ($1.80 in the Richmond Club Maiden Plate, 1100m). Adam Hyeronimus rides the stablemates.

Kembla Grange trainer Joe Ible has opted to take winkers off former Victorian and early favorite Big Apple (Louise Day), who has his first run for him in the Blossom Hair, Body, Face & Wig Boutique Midway Benchmark 64 Handicap (1100m).

. The rail is in the TRUE position, and course manager Kyle Cassim this morning posted a “Good 4” rating with a penetrometer reading of 5.01. There has been no rain in the last 24 hours, and only 5mm in the past week.

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