RODD ON TRACK TO GRAFTON
By TONY WHITE
QUEENSLAND riding sensation Michael Rodd is coming to Grafton for the $750,000 July Racing Carnival.
The 24-year-old enjoyed a bumper Brisbane winter carnival in winning five Group races, including last Saturday's WJ Healey Stakes at Eagle Farm aboard Coffs Harbour-trained star Natural Destiny, and the Winter Stakes aboard New Zealand mare La Sizeranne.
He is super keen to get among the winners during the annual 10-day Grafton carnival which stretches from July 6 until July 16.
Rodd has especially fond memories of Grafton, winning his first race as an apprentice aboard Tornato Lass at the track in July 2000.
And he hit local headlines two years back winning the 2004 Grafton Cup aboard Pacific Dancer for trainer Shaun Dwyer not long after returning from his first stint in Hong Kong.
Born in Terrigal on the NSW Central Coast, Rodd served his apprenticeship with Bryan Guy on the Gold Coast, riding more than 400 winners and his mounts earning in excess of $7.5 million.
The winner of four Group One races (Brisbane Cup, Capital Stakes, Doomben Cup and Coolmore Classic) returned to Hong Kong in September 2004, rode until June 2005 and again from September until December 2005, where he mixed it with the world's leading riders.
The likable lad returned home to the Gold Coast in January and has again established himself as one of Australia's top jockeys.
"Michael is keen to come back to Grafton for the carnival and he's looking for rides," Rodd's Gold Coast-based manager Mick O'Brien said. "He loves the track and the local people."
Unfortunately for Rodd, trainer Gordon Yorke has elected to bypass the $125,000 Black Toyota Ramornie (1200m) on July 12 with Natural Destiny, preferring to spell the three-year-old with a view to an ambitious spring campaign.
Healey Stakes runner-up Starlactic is definitely Ramornie-bound.
"He didn't quite have his normal zip but the horse has pulled up good," Starlactic's trainer Wayne Lawson said yesterday after the Healey Stakes defeat. "I'm happy with him. We've still got a few shots up our sleeve for the Ramornie."
Lawson confirmed apprentice Rick McMahon will ride 'Nipper' in the Ramornie.
McMahon came in for some criticism after he allowed Starlactic to travel three wide but Lawson backed his young rider, saying he rode to instructions after the pair walked the track pre-race looking for the best going.
The Ramornie is shaping as a crackerjack affair with a host of quality sprinters targeting the Listed event.
Quirindi trainer Geoff O'Brien confirmed Mac's Tune, upset winner of the Pacesetter Stakes at Randwick on Saturday, would be nominated.
2003 winner Sir Breakfast, trained by Liam Birchley, is another definite Ramornie contender.