Taree horseman Ross Stitt will vie for the prestigious Grafton Cup Carnival feature double over the next two days saddling up livewire chances in both the Ramornie Handicap and the headline event of the festival, the 2012 Grafton Cup.
Wednesday sees the first leg of the popular double run at the Clarence River Jockey Club’s premier course with 12 sprinters remaining in contention for the $150,000 Listed WHK Ramornie Handicap (1200m).
Topweight of the Ramornie is Youthful Jack with a hefty 58kg, the six-year-old Youthful Legs gelding to be ridden by Robert Thompson from barrier nine.
Formerly prepared by Toowoomba trainer Rex Lipp, the now-retired Allan Denham at Rosehill and then by former champion jumps jockey Adam Trinder in Tasmania, Youthful Jack is a six times stakes winner who will be out to return to form on Wednesday.
They have had just two runs for Stitt when fifth to Tromso first-up at Rosehill over 1100m in May and then a disappointing eight when beating home just one other runner in the Listed Takeover Target Stakes (1200m) won by See The World at Gosford on June 22 in the mud.
Prior to joining Stitt’s operation Youthful Jack enjoyed a smart summer campaign in Sydney and Tasmania winning their last three on the trot including the Listed Thetote.com.au Stakes (1200m) at Launceston in February when carrying 58.5kg.
They face a tough field in the Ramornie including clear $2.50 favourite Magic Cassius, early market mover Howmuchdoyouloveme ($4) and last start Group 3 WJ Healy Stakes winner River Lad ($6).
Further down the Ramornie Handicap betting markets punters can find Youthful Jack at $17, a nice price according to Stitt.
“I think he is great odds,” Stitt, who vies for his maiden Ramornie Handicap win, said.
“He’s put in three bad runs in his life and they have all been on bog tracks.
“I haven’t been able to fault his work since Gosford.
“Anything on the fence at Gosford that day couldn’t figure so you have to forget about it.”
Youthful Jack runs in their second Grafton Cup this year having run a 10th to the Peter Snowden-trained Pinwheel back in 2010 when hampered by the extreme outside barrier 15 of 15 draw, Stitt confident they will be closer this time round.
“He was over the top then whereas now he is on the way up,” Stitt said.
Following the action of Ramornie Handicap Day, Thursday seeks the carnival hit fever pitch with the running of the $150,000 Listed Grafton Cup (2350m).
Eleven stayers are engaged to face off in the Grafton Cup field this year including Stitt’s progressive four-year-old Southern Shimmer.
While Youthful Jack is one of the outsiders in their Grafton assignment, Southern Image gelding Southern Shimmer currently sits top of the Grafton Cup odds at a quote of $3.
They are followed closely in the markets by $3.20 second elect Shamardashing coming off a good fourth to Ginga Dude in the Group 3 Tatt’s Cup (2200m) at Eagle Farm on June 23.
Southern Shimmer is drawn on the rails in barrier one for Saturday and will also be ridden by Thompson, who won the 1981 Grafton Cup, but on the 54kg minimum.
Last seen running a brave second to Sour Mash over 2200m at Warwick Farm, Southern Shimmer is out to break a lengthy winning drought that has been running since their 2011 Dubbo Cup win last September.
“I reckon he’s had no luck whatsoever in six of the seven runs he’s had this time and I’ve had this race picked out for 12 months,” Stitt said.
If successful for Stitt on Thursday Southern Shimmer will be atoning for the horseman’s close second in the 2006 Grafton Cup with Precise Timing.
Two other trainers have runners in both the Ramornie Handicap and Grafton Cup this year: Sue Grills with Ollie Vollie (Ramornie) and Danahere (Grafton Cup), and Patinack Farm’s John Thompson with Prost (Ramornie) and both Shamardashing and Saint Encosta in the Cup.
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