Paul Murray has high hopes for his team on the opening day of the Wagga Gold Cup carnival

FAMILY AFFAIR: Kembla Grange trainer Paul Murray, his mother Edie and jockey Grant Buckley at last year's Gold Cup carnival. Picture: Les Smith
FAMILY AFFAIR: Kembla Grange trainer Paul Murray, his mother Edie and jockey Grant Buckley at last year's Gold Cup carnival. Picture: Les Smith

KEMBLA Grange trainer Paul Murray hopes to again make his presence felt at the Wagga Gold Cup carnival, starting with Sunday’s opening day.

The Murray yard have been regular visitors to the carnival over decades and will bring four horses to Sunday’s prelude meeting.

Direct Strategy will lead the charge in the $35,000 Magic Albert Murrumbidgee Cup (1800m), while Murray will have a two-pronged attack in the $30,000 Bede Murray Town Plate Prelude (1200m).

Murray will try and win the race named in father’s honour with Flash Fibian and Gold Horizon, while the Wagga-owned Griddlebone is the fourth of his runners in the $25,000 Audi Centre Wagga MTC Guineas Prelude (1400m).

Direct Strategy’s last two runs have been in $150,000 heats of the Provincial Championships over 1400m, where he has been beaten a touch over three lengths on both occasions.

Direct Strategy loves the Wagga track and Murray rates the four-year-old as his best chance on Sunday.

“I probably should have stepped him up in distance at his past two runs but I tried to keep him for the Provincial Championships,” Murray explained.

“He’s probably been telling me he wants further but the money’s that good (in the Provincial Championships) that you have got to have a crack.”

The winner of Sunday’s race is exempt of the Wagga Gold Cup ballot and Murray is unsure if Direct Strategy is ready for a serious crack at the $150,000 feature.

“He’s probably not up to the Cup yet,” he said.

“He’s very adaptable. If he got there, he wouldn’t disgrace himself against the seasoned horses.”

Grant Buckley will ride Direct Strategy, as well as Griddlebone and Flash Fibian.

Murray rates Flash Fibian as a better chance in the Town Plate Prelude than Gold Horizon.

“I’d have to say Flash Fibian. The other horse probably wants a mile now,” he said.

“We took Flash Fibian to Gosford last start and we knew he wouldn’t handle the going, but we got $3000 for a track gallop.

“The weather’s been that bad, we just had to go up there and give him a run for his fitness.”

Griddlebone, owned by Peter Friedlieb, is Murray’s final runner and one he really likes.

Griddlebone won his maiden at Wagga in February and has since been freshened up for a crack at the Guineas.

“He’s a funny sort of horse, we backed off him to get him into Guineas,” Murray said.

“He’s a horse, as soon as you give him a run, he turns dour and seems to want a mile and a quarter or a mile and a half.

“He may end up in Queensland for the winter. I think he’s a nice horse, he’s still very, very raw and is running on ability at the moment.

“He’s still got a lot to learn, he plays up in the enclosure and everything but as soon as he hits the track he turns into a real racehorse.”

Sunday’s seven-race card starts at 1.15pm.