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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


WEDNESDAY: August 16, 2023: EIGHT years have galloped by since Jason Attard won the Hawkesbury Gold Cup with Sons Of John.

Now training in partnership with his wife Lucy, he is hoping a close relation to the horse who very nearly ruined Winx’s remarkable winning streak can provide the couple with their most important success at home tomorrow.

Team Attard will start both Ruby Flyer and Luvoir in the $200,000 Listed Pioneer Services Rowley Mile (1600m), and has called on brother and sister Jason and Alysha Collett to respectively ride the pair.

In an open “Mile” market, Ruby Flyer this morning was at $7 with, not far behind Chris Waller pair Bold Mac ($5.50) and Pretty Amazing ($6). Luvoir was rated a $34 chance.

It will be some training performance if the lightly-raced Ruby Flyer can graduate from restricted company to capture the Listed event, given he began racing only 12 months ago as an early four-year-old and didn’t win in the four starts of his first preparation.

It was a different story when he steamrolled rivals in a 4YO & Upwards Maiden Plate (1350m) on resumption at Wyong in late April, and hasn’t looked back, winning three of his next four starts, culminating with a midweek city breakthrough in a Benchmark 72 Handicap (1600m) at Warwick Farm on July 19.

Ruby Flyer is the first foal of Kellyville Flyer (she and Sons Of John are full relations and won 13 races between them), and Attard broke him in when he arrived as a late two-year-old.

“He was unhandled, and we didn’t push him because he hadn’t had the conditioning, not being broken in like a normal yearling,” Attard said today.

“That’s why he didn’t begin racing until August last year at Kembla Grange.

“After he won at Warwick Farm last month, I was looking through the RacingNSW calendar and noticed the Rowley Mile.

“Ruby Flyer likes his runs spaced and this race being at home, I thought it would be rude not to have a crack at.

“I ride him in his gallops, and he has kept ticking over nicely. Obviously, it’s a big jump in class, but he is in great order, has drawn an inside barrier, Jason has won on him over the mile at Hawkesbury, and the soft ground is perfect.”

Attard pointed out Sons Of John was having his 10th start that campaign when he won the Group 3 Hawkesbury Cup over the Rowley Mile course in June 2015 (it was rescheduled after only one race was able to be run at the Saturday stand-alone meeting in late April).

“Sons Of John kept holding his form as his runs also were spaced; he wasn’t hammered,” Attard said.

After winning the Hawkesbury Cup, the now 13-year-old gelding (enjoying retirement at the Attard’s Grose Vale property) had a let-up and then, three months later as a $31 roughie, went within a whisker of upsetting Winx in the Group 2 Theo Marks Stakes (1300m) at Rosehill Gardens.

Whilst Ruby Flyer clearly is the more favored of the Attard pair, the trainer has advised punters not to overlook Luvoir.

“His last run (when narrowly beaten on the Kensington track over 1550m on August 2) had a lot of merit,” Attard said.

“He is at his right distance tomorrow, having won over 1600m at Randwick, and the soft ground also suits him.”

Winx’s rider, the now Hong Kong-based Hugh Bowman, will be at Hawkesbury for the one ride, on Protagonist ($7) in the Rowley Mile for his new trainer Kris Lees.

Previously trained in the UK by William Haggas, the gelding raced three times in Sydney in autumn, and won the Group 3 Sky High Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill in March at his first start since last October.

“Protagonist had two trials last month (winning the latest over 1000m at Gosford on July 26), and has shown he can pull out a run fresh, and I’m happy with him,” Lees said.

“Hugh has been holidaying with his family in Thailand and is back in Sydney before returning to Hong Kong for the start of the new season early next month.

“He was happy to take the mount as Protagonist’s 60kg suited him, but I’m hoping the track continues to improve as five of his six career wins have been on good ground.”

All-conquering Chris Waller, seeking his sixth Rowley Mile success, has seven of the 14 acceptors.

Along with fancied pair Bold Mac (Kerrin McEvoy) and Pretty Amazing (Kathy O’Hara), he also has Polly Grey (James McDonald), Manzoice (Josh Parr), Longvillers (Brett Prebble), Logan Street Lion (Jay Ford) and Gan Teorainn (Tyler Schiller).

Schiller clinched both the senior and apprentice premierships at Hawkesbury last season.

Waller first won the Rowley Mile with Snow Alert in 2010, and then four of the last seven runnings with McCreery (2016), Mister Sea Wolf (2018), Savacool (2020) and Skyman last year.

Polly Grey, the nine-year-old mare who loves wet tracks and shares topweight with Protagonist, is beginning her last campaign before a date with leading stallion Proisir back home in New Zealand.

. The rail is in the TRUE position, and racecourse manager Kyle Cassim this morning posted an upgraded “Soft 7” rating from yesterday’s “Heavy 8”, with a penetrometer reading of 5.79. Hawkesbury has received 21.5mm of rain in the past week, but nil in the last 24 hours.

The eight-race program, the first of the RacingNSW Provincial Showcase meetings this season, begins at 12.40pm.

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