Hickman out to break bad luck in Ramornie Handicap
THE last time Warwick Farm trainer Greg Hickman took a horse to Grafton for the Ramornie Handicap, back in 2004, he suffered a double dose of bad luck.
He saddled up Sportsman, the second favourite at $4.60, which finished 10th after being galloped on. The winner that year was a tidy little sprinter named Takeover Target, who proved a class above and would use Grafton as a stepping stone to conquering the racing world.
"Sportsman was galloped on in the race and was never a threat that year. But anyway, fancy running into a horse as good as Takeover Target in a Ramornie!” Hickman said.
"We've had a bit of luck in other races during the Grafton carnival over the years - winning the Guineas and the James Kirby - but I haven't had another Ramornie (runner) until now.”
Hickman certainly won't have another Takeover Target to contend with when his in-form sprinter Top Striker tackles today's $160,000 Listed 1200m feature.
Hickman has booked leading Northern Rivers jockey Ben Looker, who missed out on riding 2018 runner-up Belflyer due to a serious fall earlier in the day.
Top Striker, the winner of two of his five starts this preparation, is coming off a last-start upset victory as a $41 outsider over 1100m on a heavy 9 track at Rosehill on June 29 and has drawn barrier five.
"He's been racing very well this time in and he handles all track conditions. It looks like we'll strike a heavy track on Wednesday and that won't be a problem for him,” Hickman said.
"The Ramornie's always been on the agenda for him. He's drawn well enough, but you still need all the stars to align and everything to go right in these feature races.
"He'll certainly arrive in Grafton a very fit horse. He pulled up well since his Rosehill win the other week and his work since has been very good. I think he'll run very well.”
Several of Top Striker's main rivals didn't fare as well at Monday's barrier draw, with Bon Amis in gate 20, Cradle Mountain 18, Whypeeo 15 and Smartypy 17.
Smartypy is one of two runners for Brisbane trainer Chris Munce, who is chasing his first win in the Ramornie - either as a jockey or a trainer.
A four-year-old mare by Smart Missile, Smartypy has blossomed over the winter in Queensland, winning three of her past five starts - all of those victories posted at Ipswich.
She was also placed at Listed level at Doomben two starts back behind smart Sydney mares Multaja and Madam Rouge.
Snoopy is resuming in the Ramornie, but his first-up record is terrific -three wins and three placings from his eight past fresh runs. He geared up for his return with an easy Doomben barrier trial win on June 20.
Gold Coast trainer Toby Edmonds will saddle up three runners - Keen Array, Whypeeo and 2018 winner Havasay, who has the chance to become the first horse since The Jackal (2007-08) to win back-to-back Ramornies.
After starting the $5.50 second favourite last year, Havasay doesn't appear to be in the same form this campaign - having failed to figure in his five winter starts in Brisbane.
Scone trainer Rod Northam and jockey Robert Thompson are hoping to repeat their Ramornie success with Big Money in 2014 when they team up with After All That on Wednesday. And Thompson is chasing a fifth Ramornie win after previous victories with The Jackal (2007-8), Youthful Jack (2013) and Big Money (2014).