Le Bron connection
By TONY WHITE
CAMERON Hankin, part-owner of Le Bron, a major contender in today's $160,000 XXXX Gold Grafton Cup (2400m), has a strong affiliation with Grafton.
Hankin, also the stable foreman for Le Bron's trainer Joseph Pride, went to school at Picnic Point in Sydney and one of his close mates, David Groth, who works for the RTA, now resides in Grafton.
"We've been coming up to the Grafton carnival for several years and catch up with David, one of my best mates from school," Hankin said.
"I've always had a great time in Grafton. It's a terrific carnival, we always enjoy it, the people are great and I've always wanted to have a horse good enough to run in the Grafton Cup."
Hankin purchased Le Bron as a yearling for $20,000 at the Classic sale in Sydney.
"When I brought this horse we were always hopeful of one day coming up here with him," Hankin said.
"Things have fallen into place. This is a big bonus, especially having a horse we think can win it."
Hankin races the four-year-old gelding with three of his closest mates, Joe Papesch, Mark Cosgrove and Kristan Schirk.
"The Grafton Cup has always been our goal," Hankin said.
"The plan was set in place at the horse's last preparation.
"He's had to race on wet tracks in Queensland and that hasn't suited him. He's much better on a dry surface.
"So far, everything has fallen into place. It looks like we'll have a good track on cup day."
Hankin, Pride's foreman for three years, knows what it's like to look after a good horse. When working as travelling foreman for Randwick trainer Bob Thomsen, he travelled to Japan and Dubai with Thomsen's start middle distance galloper Danewin.
"It was an awesome experience," he said. "Very exciting, particularly seeing all the world's best horses.
"It's something I will never forget."
Le Bron has won seven of 19 starts and is just shy of $200,000 in prizemoney.
Hankin's discerning eye for a thoroughbred has proven bountiful for the gelding's owners.
Le Bron was a last start 1.8 lengths 4th to Grafton Cup topweight Empyreal in the Caloundra Cup (2400m) on July 1. He was close up (7th, beaten 2.4 lengths) behind another Kiwi, Ring Of Fire in the Tattersall's Cup (2200m) at his previous run in Brisbane.
"The way Joseph trains his horses they generally need a run over the ground to bring them to their peak," Hankin said.
Pride, who is currently shifting stables from Warwick Farm to Randwick and will miss the carnival, said he has been more than pleased with Le Bron's progress.
"His form in Brisbane has been good without being exciting but the wet tracks didn't help," Pride said. "He's better on top of the ground. He's a clean winded animal, a real athlete and if he can run out the 2400m strongly, he'll be there somewhere. That's the test because he's still maturing.
"He's a nice stayer with, we believe scope for further improvement. This is where we find out what we've got and where we're going with him. Larry Cassidy has stuck with the horse, he likes him. Hopefully it pays off for all of us."