By Tony White
Local trainer John Shelton won the opening race of the July Racing Carnival with three-year-old filly Fanqualo at Grafton yesterday.
The filly is owned by a group of mates from Tucabia and Ulmurra -Steve Wratten, Phil Bailey, Phil Lloyd, Bob Emery, Karl Studd and Mrs Chris Campbell.
"Some of us were in Having You On which won five races," part-owner Phil Bailey said. "We've bred a few and had some other horses who died or were no good.
"This is the first one we've all owned together and it's great winning a race at the carnival."
The group, who paid $5750 for the daughter of Sequalo at the Magic Million yearling sales, come from diverse walks of life - a self employed contractor, Water Board worker, grazier, auto electrician, saw miller and service station proprietor.
"They're a good bunch of knock about blokes who brought this horse with the hope of having a runner over the carnival," Shelton said. "Now they've got one."
Fanqualo (Craig Franklin) beat the Phil McLeod-trained Quad Queen and Scotch Thistle.
Amiable Westlawn Finance chairman and trainer Mike Dougherty sure has a wicked sense of humour.
Dougherty has been attending the Grafton carnival for 55 years and usually has a runner at the famous carnival.
"Not this year," Dougherty said. "I've only got two in work at the moment and they are very slow animals. You and I would beat them in a gallop."
Fortunately Dougherty owns both horses so his comments on their ability won't offend the owners.
But a comment from a jockey who rode one of his horses recently was a real clanger.
"It was on a real bog track, but the bloke told me after the race 'he was going so slow I nearly had to get off him at the 800 metres and lead him home," Dougherty recalled.
Westlawn have been heavily involved in the opening day of the carnival for more than 20 years and Dougherty said the carnival's worth to Grafton was immeasurable.
"No-one, in a commercial sense, could evaluate how much the July racing carnival is worth to Grafton," he said. "Suffice to say it's absolutely enormous."
Zac Purton is back in the hunt for the $175,000 XXXX Gold Grafton Cup.
Purton was booked to partner local hope Concitare in the Group Three feature, but trainer Bruce Swan missed the nomination deadline.
Purton will now partner Precise Timing for Taree trainer Ross Stitt.
He's also aboard Annjolino for Luke Griffith in the $30,000 Sportsman Guineas (1600m) on July 13.
Leading Sydney jockey Danny Beasley, who will partner Roadagain for Gai Waterhouse in the $125,000 Qantaslink Ramornie (1200m) and Winter Cup winner Verb for Jack Denham in the Grafton Cup, has also picked up the ride on Bavosa for Ballina-based Stephen Lee in the Guineas.
Larry Cassidy, who won Grafton Cups on Stirring (1990), Rural Prince (1991) and Praise Indeed (1996) has been booked for the Neville Voigt-trained Happy Ivor in this year's Cup.
Coffs Harbour-trainer Brett Bellamy continued his great success this season with La Baladine winning at Grafton.
Bellamy and Ballina's Stephen Lee are neck and neck in this year's Northern Rivers trainers' premiership.
La Baladine is owned by Coffs Harbour builder Tony Barker, Brian Betts, Mark Dodd, Steve Wratten and 'Snowy' Burke.
"She seems to be getting better with every run," Bellamy said of the three-year-old filly.
Trainer Trevor Hardy said his two-year-old runner-up Fair Game would back up in next Thursday's $22,500 Ten Network Plate (1200m).
Sky is calling
Brisbane-based Sky Channel race caller Alan Thomas will call the two feature days over the July Racing Carnival.
Thomas accepted an invitation from the Clarence River Jockey Club to be the on-course race caller at the Ramornie (July 13) and Grafton Cup (July 14) meetings.
The Grafton Rotary Club will conduct its annual Grafton Cup calcutta at Roches Family Hotel from 6.30am on Monday, July 11.
Proceeds from the event will go towards Rotary charities.
The calcutta will be hosted by local identity John Pankhurst with Tony White giving a form run down of the Cup starters.
Forestreno is a good horse and everyone agrees.
The Phil-McLeod-trained gelding scored a highly impressive defeat of Wimaway and Moccabraun in the Class 4 Hcp at Grafton yesterday.
As McLeod passed Moccabraun's trainer John Shelton on the way to the winners' stall, Shelton said "he's a good horse Phil."
Winning jockey Allan Robinson agreed.
"He just played with them today. He's a good horse," Robinson told McLeod on dismounting.
Forestreno has now won five from 12 starts.
McLeod must now decide between the $30,000 Sportsman Guineas (1600m) on July 13 or $25,000 Maclean Cup (1400m) on July 17.
Jockey Wayne Weate was taken to Grafton Hospital for x-rays after injuring his leg in a barrier mishap prior to race five yesterday.
Weate was catapulted out the back of the stalls from his mount Mechanical Fan.
Fellow rider Garry Baker also suffered an ankle injury and was stood down after race five.
The winner, Court Lion, is trained by Tony Karakatanis. Karakatanis was floating the gelding to Grafton yesterday and because he can become fractious -- "he's a bit of a nut," the trainer added -- was unable to stop the float to nominate horses for Ramornie and Grafton Cup day when mobile service was unavailable.
Former Grafton trainer David Kelly returned home triumphant yesterday when Gold Victory (Zac Purton) won the final event.
Kelly, a former leading Northern Rivers jockey who moved to Brisbane last year, will take up a private training contract for Dale Sutton at Wadham Park, Kyneton in Victoria from September 15.
"It's a great opportunity. I'm on a wage and percentage and Dale will have a lot of horses to work with," Kelly said.
Poetic Papal will carry Kelly's hopes in the $125,000 Ramornie (1200m) next Wednesday.