DRAWN TO RUN: Havasay in prime position for Ramornie
RACING: While John Shelton's Belflyer might have been the biggest winner at the Clarence River Jockey Club's annual Barrier Luncheon, it is highly-praised galloper Havasay that has got the punters' interest.
The five-year-old gelding by Rothasay, which ran a gallant third in the Group 3 W.J. Healy Stakes last month, has opened at the top of the market for the $160,000 GDSC Ramornie Handicap (1200m).
In front more than 150 people Northern Rivers Racing Association stewards Mark Holloway and Nathan Daniels conducted the barrier draw, before the crowd was treated to in-depth talks from both three-time Commonwealth training record holder Darren Weir and legendary racing broadcaster Sky Radio's Shaun Cosgrove.
The draw caused a fast shift in the opening betting markets, according to Ladbrokes' Tom Hackett, after the Toby Edmonds-trained gelding drew a prized inside run in barrier two. Shelton's Belflyer will be on its immediate outside.
"Havasay is on top of the Ramornie Handicap betting market with Ladbrokes following his strong Winter Racing Carnival campaign," Hackett said.
"He is currently $4.50 and narrowly holds favouritism from (Edmonds' other runner) Tyzone ($5), Akasaki ($7), Zestful ($7) and the top-weight The Monstar ($9)."
It was a tough luncheon for The Monstar trainer Brett Cavanough, who was front-and-centre as his star galloper drew an outside run from barrier 15.
But it has not deterred the leading country trainer, who is still holding out hope for a little rain to soften the Grafton track.
In the $160,000 G McMullan Contracting Grafton Cup barrier draw, Australia's leading Group 1 trainer Chris Waller suffered the worst with all of his three accepted gallopers drawing outside runs.
Topweight Montauk, which will be ridden by former Grafton jockey Ben Looker, drew the carpark in barrier 20, while Sayed (17) and Tumultuous (19) will join him out wide.
But the draw has not affected the Waller pull in the betting markets with Sayed still at the shortest opening odds alongside Michael Nolan-trained Jumbo Prince (barrier 3).
"This is one of the most competitive editions of the Grafton Cup in recent memory and there is nothing between the leading contenders in betting," Hackett said.
"Jumbo Prince and Sayed are currently locked in a battle for favouritism at $5, while either Anton En Avant ($6) or Montauk ($6.50) could end up as the punters' elect."
Neville Stewart, who won the Grafton Cup with Abstraction in 1993, is the only local trainer in the stayer's feature with seven-year-old gelding Jack Strikes Back drawing barrier 16.
GDSC RAMORNIE HANDICAP (1200m)
1 THE MONSTAR (15), 2 ZESTFUL (12), 3 BIG MONEY (17), 4 SIGFREID (11), 5 TYZONE (7), 6 HAVASAY (2), 7 MIGHTY LIKE (10), 8 SNOOPY (4), 9 GOT UNDERS (16), 10 AKASAKI (8), 11 MALVERN ESTATE (5), 12 EXECUTED (9), 13 NOT ON YOUR LIFE (1), 14 BELFLYER (3), 15 EVER SO NATURAL (14), 16 MISHANI SLEUTH (19), 17e KNIGHT TEMPLAR (13), 18e MURVATE (8), 19e MORE PATASI (6)
G McMULLAN CONTRACTING GRAFTON CUP (2350m)
1 MONTAUK (20), 2 JUMBO PRINCE (3), 3 ANTON EN AVANT (7), 4 FIRST CRUSH (9), 5 SAYED (17), 6 ALL IN VOGUE (4), 7 TUMULTUOUS (19), 8 CHILLIN WITH DYLAN (14), 9 LOVING HOME (1), 10 MISS DUBOIS (11), 11 RENEGED (8), 12 COLLABORATION (12), 13 FUERZA (5), 14 HIGH DEGREE (18), 15 JACK STRIKES BACK (16), 16 CUT THE MUSTARD (13), 17e HUSONIQUE (2), 18e LATINO LOVER (10), 19e WINKLER (15), 20e HIS KYLLACHY (6)