Racing NSW has announced more horse races restricted to country trained horses. The inclusion of a $50,000 "Country Magic" race restricted to country trained horses only at Cup events such as the Taree Gold Cup in August and the Port Macquarie Cup in October ensures country participants have an extra opportunity to compete at these future meetings.
These races will be on top of the $40,000 maiden events at these Showcase meetings for country trained horses only. It follows on from country trainers claiming they are being edged out of valuable prizemoney by provincial and city gallopers.
Racing NSW has heeded this problem, and since raising the situation in this column, there has been more country only races programmed.
One was a "Country Only" 3yo Maiden Handicap at Wauchope Jockey Club's Wauchope Cup meeting at Port Macquarie on June 16.
It was won by Valley's Sister from the Taree stable of Bob Milligan.
"It is nice to have a race where there are no provincial horses engaged...there should be a lot more of them," Milligan's son, Glen, said after the win.
Then on June 29, country and provincial only races were held for Benchmark 70 gallopers at Newcastle with another such restricted race staged at the same track last Saturday, thus not allowing city trained horses.
Kempsey trainer Hilary Dew has been a strong advocate for these "country only" races to be held in the country due to locals not being able to always compete with the better-bred trained gallopers from the city and provincials.
He would like to see regularly these type of races with country nominations having priority over the visitors.
If there are insufficient numbers, then a ballot be in place for the remaining city and provincial horses.
The increased prize money and rich Highway races for country gallopers have been welcomed, but when country trainers were getting around 30 winners a season, some are lucky to get into the '20s.
The prize money pie is getting smaller for the "bread and butter" country trainers, and they are needed for full fields to enhance positive betting turnover.
This year's Taree cup has had a $20,000 increase to $100,000, and Port Macquarie's Cup has had an increase of $50,000 to $200,000 as well as being awarded another $40,000 towards three other races on the card as announced by Racing NSW.
For the fourth week in a row, a Mid-North Coast has won the $75,000 Highway race for country gallopers in Sydney.
This time it was four-year-old gelding San Marco ($10), trained at Gladstone by "Dancing" Peter Ball who just turned 80 and has been a trainer for 63 years.
He has had previous winners in the city with Schwantz and Dream Breeze, but the latter's triumph was back in 1999.
Ball and his wife Janice stayed home while daughter, Gai, a half-owner in the $16,000 purchase, performed the duties at Royal Randwick.
Janice said her husband did a little dance around the lounge room in celebration of the win whereas Gai said she had more money to spend in a pre-date visit to Myers on Sunday.
Gai's instructions to jockey Tim Clark was to keep San Marco wide and out of trouble but was shocked to see them nearly shaking hands with patrons along the outside fence.
San Marco made it three wins in a row and the part-owner believes her galloper should be recognised to be in the $1.3million The Kosciuszko Field over 1200m on October 19.
"He loves a dry track, and if it weren't heavy at Randwick, he would have won further," she said.
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