Owner Jim Lloyd and trainer Danielle Cunningham with Aimalac Millie who is running in the Jacaranda Cup.
Owner Jim Lloyd and trainer Danielle Cunningham with Aimalac Millie who is running in the Jacaranda Cup. Adam Hourigan Photography

Grafton girls chase lady luck in NSW racing limelight

JACARANDA CUP: A day after the race that stops a nation all eyes of the NSW racing world will be on the Clarence River Jockey Club today for their stand-alone Jacaranda Cup meeting.

And there is one dynamic duo who are ready to turn the racing world on its head.

Fledgling Grafton trainer Danielle Cunningham will once again team up with apprentice jockey Carla Dougherty as they aim four-year-old mare Aimalac Millie at the SMEC Australia Jacaranda Cup (1100 metres).

It is a partnership that has proven successful multiple times already.

"She is improving as a jockey all the time and does everything her trainers ask of her," Cunningham said of the emergent jockey. "She has had only three rides for me with two wins and a fourth coming from those."

The most recent of the pair's victories came on board the Jacaranda Cup hopeful only last week at Grafton blazing past the finishing post in a quick 56.75 seconds across 1006 metres.

Up on the early speed Dougherty found her way to sitting one off the rail just behind the pace setters before kicking away at the furlong and beating out John Shelton-trained Madam Fran by half a length.

"The time last week was pretty quick," Cunningham said. "It was excellent. Carla rode her perfectly into the line, you couldn't have asked for a better ride."

Aimalac Millie joined Cunningham's small-time stable in August after transferring across from her father Paddy Cunningham at Glen Innes.

After a first up fourth place at Port Macquarie last month under the reins of Dougherty, Cunningham knew the Jacaranda feature was well within her sights.

"She is a bit of a worrier so the less travel the better," she said. "I picked out these two races (including last week's Class 3) as potential challenges for her to aim at.

"The Jacaranda Cup always depended on how she raced last week. She is only a slight horse so she doesn't mind the quick back up."

Despite a swim in the Clarence River every day since her flying finish last Tuesday Aimalac Millie has not required any extra work in preparation for today's Cup race.

"I took her for a light trot and canter on Saturday but that was really just to see where she was at," Cunningham said. "I ride all her trackwork which is good because you get a feel for your horse and where they are at."

It will be a slight adjustment for Aimalac Millie as she pushes out to the 1100m distance today but it won't be a problem according to Cunningham who knows her horse will try from any distance.

"She is very fine and there is not much too her - but she is full of heart," she said.

"She never gives up and never stops trying. She has the ability to go between horses but she will let down better if she has the room."

No matter where she sits out of the gates Cunningham has full faith in her jockey Dougherty who shares a two decade history with the trainer.

"She is such a great little horse and she tries so hard," Dougherty said. "She does need the space so coming out of barrier six will be the perfect fit for us."



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