Emma Pritchard, Clarence Valley Independent
The wet weather raced away in time and sunshine covered Grafton as the Clarence River Jockey Club (CRJC) welcomed 1300 racegoers to the 2021 Grafton Toyota South Grafton Cup Race Day meeting on July 4.
Under a clear winter sky, the only reminders of the recent rainfall was the track surface, which was rated a heavy 9 at the start of the program, and several scratchings as horses with wet track form firmed in the market.
But despite adhering to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, it was easier for the socially distanced crowd to put on their face masks compared to picking a winner.
Punters struggled to find form early in the day, and the bookies cheered loudly as two of the first three winners saluted at double figure odds.
In a dominant front running display, New Zealand bred gelding Nature Boy (NZ) lead the field from the jump to the winning post in Race 1, the Crown Hotel Motel Class 1 and Maiden Plate over 2217m.
Given a positive ride by apprentice jockey Georgina McDonnell, Nature Boy (NZ) had the field strung out over 20 lengths at the 800m mark, as backmarkers were hard ridden and struggled to make ground in the heavy going.
Nature Boy (NZ) kicked strongly into the home straight to win by more than five lengths and claim his second win at start number 30.
Following the race, his trainer Lea Selby revealed it had taken her a long time to work out the four-year-old son of Ocean Park.
“He can’t sprint, but he just keeps kicking,” she said happily.
“Georgina rode him well and it was exciting to watch.”
Wyong trained filly Flora, who had failed at her previous attempt on a heavy track at the Gold Coast in May, turned her form around to take Race 2, George’s Tree Services Maiden Handicap over 1005m for jockey Matthew McGuren at 9/1.
The bookies celebrated another winner at double figure odds in Race 3 when astute Tamworth trainer and long-time supporter of the July Racing Carnival Sue Grills produced Jillonni to win the Holiday Coast Meats Class 1 Handicap over 1005m at 12/1.
“She’s still a little bit roly poly, but she should win a few more races,” she said as Jillonni returned to scale.
Following a track upgrade to a Heavy 8, punters finally had a reason to smile after Race 4, the Grafton Hire Class 3 Handicap over 1408m, which was won by Amazingly, ridden by local jockey Ben Looker for Inverell trainer Wayne Oakenfull.
In the market at 5/1, Amazingly put his nose down on the line to defeat game filly Auntie Monnie and deny Sue Grills a winning double.
The good fortune continued for punters throughout the rest of the program following a further track upgrade to a Soft 7 prior to Race 6, with well-fancied runners Mikado, Texas Storm and Ausbred Cooee all saluting at short odds.
The 2021 July Racing Carnival continues today with the running of the time-honoured Grafton District Services Club
(GDSC) Ramornie Handicap.
Storming to victory in South Grafton Cup
Consistent galloper Texas Storm blew his rivals away to win the 2021 Grafton Toyota South Grafton Cup with gusto on July 4.
In the market with punters at 5/1, Texas Storm jumped cleanly from an inside barrier and sat midfield throughout the race before jockey Ashley Morgan gave the six-year-old son of All American his head at the top of the home straight.
Relishing the upgraded track conditions to a Soft 7, Texas Storm forged clear to win the feature event on the program by one and a half lengths from Hit The Target and Zigallene (NZ) in a time of 1:36.90.
Last year’s winner Jazzland never looked likely inside the final furlong and could only manage 8th place with the topweight of 61kg.
Prepared in Taree by prominent country trainer Bob Milligan, the victory on Sunday was Texas Storm’s first win at his fifth start over 1608m.
Although his trainer was unable to make the journey to Grafton to watch his tenacious galloper claim one of the feature races of the 2021 July Racing Carnival, his son and stable representative Glen Milligan was trackside on the weekend.
Describing Texas Storm as a horse which “loves rain affected going”, Milligan also revealed the horse has overcome “a lot of niggly problems” and has matured beautifully.
“He’s a very good horse and he’s lucky there was a lot of speed on during the race,” he said.
“He got the sit on them and was able to dash away.
“He was very strong late in the race and he’s such a powerful horse.”
Jockey Ashley Morgan, Texas Storm’s regular rider, was also full of praise for the gelding following his emphatic win.
“He always tries hard, and he deserved to win today,” he said.
“He’s a very good horse.” Milligan also revealed during a post-race interview that Texas Storm will not race on towards the 2021 Maclean Hotel Grafton Cup later in the carnival with the gelding heading home to Taree instead.
This article appeared in the Clarence Valley Independent, 7 July 2021.