By TONY WHITE
TWO horses targeting feature races over the July Racing Carnival came to the fore at Grafton yesterday.
Kempsey-trained mare Langfibian and local sprinter Sircolo fought out a thrilling finish of the Grafton July Carnival July 6 to 16 Hcp (1000m).
Lanfibian, trained by Barry Ratcliff, a regular carnival visitor, edged out the fast-finishing Sircolo, trained by John Shelton.
Ratcliff had been tossing up whether to set his consistent four-year-old for the Ramornie Hcp (1200m) or James Kirby (1000m), but after Marlon Dolendo guided the mare to a long head win, plumped for the latter race on Grafton Cup Day (July 13).
While Langfibian took the honours Sircolo, who was resuming, was considered by many a good thing beaten after missing the start and being unable to secure clear running until the 200m.
Ratcliff, though, was all smiles and rightly so.
Ratcliff initially purchased Lanfibian for a client as a yearling for $5000, but the sale fell through.
"He didn't want her so I tried to sell shares in her at my local watering hole, but didn't get any takers," Ratcliff said.
"In the end I decided to race her myself. I wouldn't sell her now."
Langfibian has only missed collecting a cheque twice in her career.
Her record now stands at eight wins and ten placing's from 24 starts. She has earned just over $70,000 in prizemoney.
Ratcliff, who keeps a team of about 7-10 horses in work, is no stranger to Grafton.
His top sprinter Hurricane Stroller has twice finished runner-up in the James Kirby.
"I'm going to bring four horses over for the carnival," Ratcliff said. "I'd finally love to win the James Kirby and Langfibian might be the horse to do it."
Shelton was bowed but not dismayed after Sircolo's defeat.
"He's a good horse and has come up well," Shelton said.
The $125,000 Ramornie Hcp on July 12 is Sircolo's carnival target.
"After missing the start he was unlucky," jockey Peter Graham rued.
Graham won the previous race, the Cup Prelude Day July 6 Hcp (1000m) aboard the Bruce Swan-trained Lord Tallum.
Swan said Lord Tallum was likely to back up at Coffs Harbour on Monday.
Graham had the misfortune to drop the whip when attempting to pull it through Lord Tallum's mane in the home straight.
"I didn't need it anyway," he said of the gelding's easy 2-3/4 length win.