Graff firms for hometown win in $1m dash
GRAFF retained race favouritism after the all-important The Hunter (1300m) barrier draw which was a mixed bag for local trainer Kris Lees before the inaugural $1m race at Newcastle on Saturday.
Lees has five entries for Newcastle's richest race - Graff has drawn to start out of barrier eight while stablemate, fourth emergency Miss Fabulass, has the inside gate. His other runners have drawn wide - Tactical Advantage (12), Invincible Gem (14) and Le Romain (15).
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Ladbrokes price assessors have rated Graff as the $3.60 favourite ahead of the Peter and Paul Snowden-trained Brave Song at $7.50. Savatiano is at $8.50 while local hope Bon Amis is $8.50.
Lees revealed Graff will wear a cross-over nose band for the first time in The Hunter. The trainer is hoping the gear change can provide the sprinter with a decisive edge.
"Graff wore the cross-over nose band in a trial a couple of weeks ago and it seemed to work,'' Lees said. "The horse settled nicely in the trial and he has galloped well since at trackwork.''
The Hunter meeting has attracted a healthy 129 entries across the nine races, including a field of 12 promising three-year-olds for the Group 3 $160,000 Spring Stakes (1600m) featuring unbeaten Rule The World, Donankim and Bright Rubick, a trio that are on three-race winning streaks.
Happy to miss The Gong
Sydney's most popular horse Happy Clapper has contracted a virus and will miss the $1m The Gong (1600m) at Kembla Grange on November 23.
Trainer Pat Webster said he has "run out of time" to get Happy Clapper ready for next week's big race and has decided to send the gelding to the spelling paddock.
"We found 'The Clapper' came down with a temperature last week which meant he missed a barrier trial,'' Webster said. "I put him on antibiotics and was hoping he would get over the virus quickly but it has lingered for a few days.
"There is no way we will take any risks with this horse, he's been too good to us, and he'll go for spell. I was really keen to run him in The Gong but it wasn't to be.''
Happy Clapper, the remarkable nine-year-old and winner of 12 of his 44 races for more than $7.2 million in prizemoney, had another successful spring campaign with Group 1 placings in the Winx Stakes and George Main Stakes before his courageous win in the Group 3 Craven Plate, beating subsequent Rosehill Gold Cup winner Tally.
"There is no reason why 'The Clapper' can't return and do well in the autumn,'' Webster said.
"He's still loving his racing so I'd like to think we can have him ready for races like the Chipping Norton Stakes and the Ranvet Stakes then look at The Championships with him again.''
Port races abandoned
The Port Macquarie race meeting scheduled for Thursday was abandoned due to the continuing bushfire threat and heavy smoke in the region.
With a number of roads around Port Macquarie closed because of the fire crisis, access to Port Macquarie is already difficult and Racing NSW determined the meeting be called off rather than risk the safety and welfare for participants and horses.
Racing NSW did extend the nomination deadline for race meetings at Grafton (Monday) and Taree (Tuesday) for horses that were entered for the abandoned Port Macquarie meeting.