A taste of the action
By TONY WHITE
JULY carnival aspirants abound at today's Grafton TAB race meeting.
With under a month before country racing's jewel in the crown takes place between July 7-17 offering $780,000 prizemoney, many local trainers are using today's meeting to put carnival hopes under the microscope.
Five-times Northern Rivers champion trainer John Shelton will saddle up 13 runners on the nine-event program that has attracted a massive 134 entries.
"It's a matter of sorting them out and seeing what they are made of," Shelton said.
"The standard of racing is getting tougher.
"We should get a fair idea after today if they are on track towards the carnival."
Shelton believes two of his leading chances today ? Xaarbee (race four) and High Octave (race six) -? can graduate to major races during the July carnival.
Xaarbee, a two-year-old filly by Xaar chasing a hat trick of wins and last start winner, five-year-old gelding High Octave, are raced by owner-breeders Barry Plater from Murwillumbah and Evans Heads-based, Peter O'Rourke.
Xaarbee is being aimed at the $22,500 Ten Network Plate (July 14) and High Octave the $45,000 South Grafton Cup Maclean Cup (July 10).
Shelton also races Sir Cola for the same connections.
"Between the trio they've probably won about 10 races," Shelton said yesterday.
"Xaarbee is only a little thing but she can gallop.
"I probably should have claimed on her tomorrow, but the owner was keen for Andrew Parramore to ride her.
"She's got a task first-up with 58 kilos and from barrier 12 but hopefully she's good enough to overcome that."
High Octave, a winner of eight from 32 starts, resumed from a 197 day break with a promising fourth behind Gold Coast-based Omnitrader over 1250m at Ballina on May 22.
"I reckon he's harshly weighted in comparison to a horse like Concitare (Grafton Cup) but he's coming along well and a race like the South Grafton Cup over the carnival, particularly if it's wet, would suit him," Shelton said.
Shelton's other runners today are: Dance The Tango and Myrilga (race one); Fanqualo, Hyaline and Ausdew (race two); Royal Maizcay (race four); Star Of Tirane (race five); True Reflection and Rebelette (race seven) and King Cadenza and Terse Star (race eight).
Smart filly Rebelette, who resumes today, is being considered for the $22,500 Maclean Cup (July 17).
Grafton trainer Phil McLeod also has a big representation of carnival contenders. McLeod will saddle up eight starters ? Quad Queen, Meteorite, In Under There, High Occupancy, Judicial Queen, Angels Rain, Crown Glass and Forestreno.
Taree wonderchild Alicia Willick brings three-year-old Real Fame (race three) back to Grafton with the carnival in mind.
Real Fame, a $22,000 Magic Million yearling purchase, won its maiden at Grafton four starts back.
"He's always indicated in his work and races and he's bred to be suited over a bit of so tomorrow should be interesting," Willick said of the 1750m race.
"In his first gallop he beat Leg Irons pointlessly and I thought 'wow, what have I got here.'
"But he is a bit of a screw loose. I just haven't seen it from him again.
"Really he's a bit of a silly horse, no brains, and does a lot wrong.
"When the penny drops and he gets his act together I think he'll win more races."