One of country racing’s great characters will have his first starter in NSW at Murrumbidgee Turf Club on Sunday.
Torquay trainer Bryce Stanaway will bring up a number of horses for the feature race at Wagga, the $25,000 Ron Crouch Transport 2018 Riverina Cup (3800m).
Stanaway has accepted with five horses but is yet to decide exactly how many he will bring to compete in NSW’s longest race.
Two-time listed winner Craft Cruiser, an earner of $922,000 in prizemoney, spearheads Stanaway’s Riverina Cup assault, that also includes Letsgetsideways, Ventura Highway, Knucklemanna and Entirely Perfect.
Stanaway is hoping for some rain so he can bring Crafty Cruiser to Wagga.
“It probably depends on the track and how firm it is, and that’s no fault of the club with the drought up there,” Stanaway said.
“The old horse won’t come unless there is a bit of rain before Sunday, but I’ll still bring two or three.
“I just want to support the club for doing it.”
Stanaway is a big supporter of staying races and likes the way Racing NSW is supporting country trainers and owners.
“Here in Victoria, they don’t want us,” he said.
“Racing in NSW is going ahead in leaps and bounds. It’s great all the initiatives there are for country trainers and owners.
“Here in Victoria, without the Melbourne Cup carnival, racing would be nothing. They don’t want to know stayers...and we’re not getting looked after.”
Stanaway will make the seven-hour trip to Wagga for the first time on Sunday. Depending whether he has a runner at Moe on Saturday or not, he may stop at Albury on Saturday night at Mitchell Beer’s stables, or leave at 4am Sunday morning and make the one trip.
He is looking forward to the journey.
“I used to cart horses up and down both the north and south islands back in New Zealand. I wouldn’t go to bed for two days,” he said.
“I’m one of those blokes who is happy to go and have a go. If I do no good, then it’s a learning experience.
“I want to support the club for putting on these races.”
If the rain comes, Stanaway believes 11-year-old Crafty Cruiser is the best of his chances in the Riverina Cup.
“Crafty Cruiser, it’s the ideal race for him,” he said.
“He’s been racing over too short of trips. They have done away with all our 3000 metre flat races down here, racing’s gone downhill. So I’ve had to race him over 2200 metres and he doesn’t even get warm.”
Jeff Penza has been booked to ride Crafty Cruiser, from the outside gate in the field of 13.
Brendan Ward, Kayla Nisbet, Josh Richards and Simon Miller have been booked for the rest of his team.
Mornington trainer Anthony Freedman will also make another trip to Wagga and has accepted with High Mode in the Riverina Cup.
Defending champion Thunder Road is also a starter and will reunite with jockey Nick Heywood in the Cup, for just the second time since last year’s triumph.
Wagga trainer Trevor Sutherland will have a three-pronged attack in the Cup, led by in-form top weight Sir Ottavio and joined by King Of Sting and Edge Of Madness.