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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


MONDAY: February 13, 2023: IT’S already been an excellent season for Warwick Farm trainer Matt Smith, who is looking to add another winner to his tally when racing resumes at Hawkesbury tomorrow.

Jimmy Manolo’s breakthrough victory at Tuncurry yesterday was his 54th in just over the first half of the 2022-23 racing year, putting him well on track to better last season’s benchmark 0f 77 winners.

Smith has already surpassed his 2020-21 haul of 51 winners, and sends two horses to the provincial meeting – opposing each other and both well found in early markets on the XXXX Gold Midway 4YO & Up Maiden Handicap (1100m).

And he has booked form Hawkesbury jockeys Rachel King and Tyler Schiller for his respective runners November Rhythm and Rolene.

King, a previous Hawkesbury premiership victor, is the current front-runner for this season’s title with eight winners, two ahead of Schiller and fellow apprentice Zac Lloyd and senior jockey Sam Clipperton.

Resuming four-year-old November Rhythm (King) is the current $2.70 favorite, with I Am Invincible mare Rolene (Schiller) on the third line of betting at $5.

“Both horses will definitely run, and are working and trialling well,” Smith said this morning.

“There isn’t much between them, with Rolene the more experienced of the pair, having had five starts against November Rhythm’s two.

“November Rhythm is having his first run for me and has won both his recent trials (789m at home on January 16 and 900m at Rosehill Gardens 11 days later), whilst Rolene played up in the barrier stalls and took no competitive part when resuming at Bathurst last month.

“She subsequently won an 815m trial at Warwick Farm on January 30 (with Schiller aboard), and I will use a blindfold on her tomorrow to help settle her in the stalls.”

November Rhythm was previously trained at Hawkesbury and trialled three times there before a debut fourth at Canberra in late December 2021, followed by an unplaced 900m run at Newcastle on January 19 last year when a $3.80 chance.

His Newcastle rider Jeff Penza told stewards the gelding never travelled comfortably and made an abnormal respiratory noise throughout the race, though a subsequent vet examination did not reveal any abnormalities.

November Rhythm was subsequently cleared last month to resume trialling and racing.

Godolphin’s James Cummings, a clear leader in the Hawkesbury trainers’ premiership with 11 wins (five ahead of Newcastle’s Nathan Doyle), also has two representatives tomorrow.

He runs lightly-raced pair, the well-named Stanislaus ($3.20 favorite) in the Sky Racing 2YO Maiden Plate (1000m), and Pierro filly Sequestered ($4.20 second favorite) in the Lander Toyota Maiden Plate (1400m).

Group 1 Caulfield Guineas winner Golden Mile’s younger half-brother is by Exceed and Excel, and Stanislaus is a given name of Slavic origin, meaning “someone who achieves glory or fame”.

The equine Stanislaus finished sixth to unbeaten stablemate Barber on debut in the Kirkham Plate (1000m) at Royal Randwick last October, and has trialled twice (the latest when placed at Hawkesbury over 800m on January 24) in preparation for his return.

Sequestered was placed at both starts last month at Canterbury and Kembla Grange, and is no stranger to Hawkesbury either, having trialled there three times last year.

Leading Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup also has two runners; The Halo (Brett Prebble) in the Blakes Marine F&M Benchmark 64 Handicap (1400m), and Surreal Lily (apprentice Amy McLucas) in the St Johns Park Bowling club Class 1 Handicap (1300m).

The Halo broke through over 1350m at Wyong on January 18 before going under narrowly to Mihocek over 1400m at Newcastle on February 4, whilst Surreal Lily at her fifth start led throughout in a Provincial Maiden Plate (1200m) at Gosford on February 2.

“I have been really pleased with how both mares have trained on since, and expect them to run well again,” Widdup said.

Josh Parr immediately began a suspension incurred at Randwick last Saturday and forfeited four bookings. He has already been replaced by Lee Magorrian on $2.90 favorite Stonecoat in the Clarendon Tavern CG&E Benchmark 64 Handicap (1400m).

. The rail is in the TRUE position for tomorrow’s meeting, and a “Soft 5” rating was posted this morning.

Course manager Rick Johnston said Hawkesbury received 27mm of rain in a heavy downpour late on Thursday before experiencing weekend temperatures of around 38 and 33 degrees respectively.

“It is a cooler day today, and there is a great grass coverage for our first meeting back since mid-December,” Johnston said.

“This will be the only meeting before we host the first of two qualifying heats of the Polytrack Provincial-Midway Championships on Saturday, March 4.”

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