For countless summers, Canberrans have been crossing the mountain ranges to holiday on the NSW South Coast, but today business comes well before pleasure further down the coastline at picturesque Wallagoot.
A stream of ready-to-win Canberra gallopers line up in today's feature meeting at the Sapphire Coast – headed by leading trainer Nick Olive, who is staring down a potential treble.
Seemingly, only a well-placed Moruya-trained duo – 6YO The Potato Pontiff in Race 1 and smart sprinting mare Living Doll in Race 2 – can put an early halt to the national capital's far south coast raid.
After an indifferent series of runs this prep, Olive's lightly-raced, US-bred 5YO Reliant looks ready to return to his best in Race 3 – a moderate rating BM 66 Hcp (1608m) and prelude to the Bega Cup. In a race of little speed and depth, and carrying his lightest weight for some time, Reliant can push forward from a wide gate and take up a stalking position out of trouble. And the extra trip looks ideal.
Then most punters' eyes will be on his promising sprinter Ninky Nonk, which carries topweight second-up in Race 5 – a CL2 Hcp over 1008m. While on face value his first-up run at Orange as a pronounced favourite when puncturing late under pressure looked disappointing, the run was better than it looked. Ninky Nonk was caught in the slowest part of the track in the straight from an inside gate, but drawn wider here and unbeaten second-up, payback looms.
The third of Olives rock-hard chances comes in the last, a maiden plate over 1408m, with his 4YO gelding Luga Lad, which threatened to win his maiden right through 2018. Certainly connections and punters will be hoping 2019 brings a change of luck. Luga Lad raced right through last autumn and into winter, continually hitting the line from off the pace without breaking through, and again since his return in October has had a string of close placings as hes moved up in distance.
A near 50 percent place rate, but still no wins, has left the stable frustrated – yet the son of Purrealist is breathing all over this battle today. From an inside draw, he will coil up back in the field, and just needs a clear crack at them from the 400m.
The spoils may not stop there for Canberra trainers. Both last start maiden winner 4YO mare Reign Over Me in Race 4 and another 4YO mare in the resuming Boston Ivy (Race 5) look well paced for the Joseph-Jones stable.