KOSCIUSZKO CALLING: Grafton galloper locks in elusive slot
RACING: Grafton's leading trainer John Shelton got the call he had been waiting for at the weekend with stable star Belflyer locking down a slot in The Kosciuszko.
The seven-year-old gelding, who finished a close second to Havasay in the Ramornie Handicap back in July, was an 11th- hour call-up for the race after he benefited from the slot redraw held last week.
Shelton secured a partnership with the aptly named Battlers Punters Club, with the three-man team securing not only a slot in $1.3 million race, but also their own shares in the prized sprinter.
Thad King, who heads the syndicate, said it was a tough choice between the best bush sprinters, but was proud to link up with the Grafton trainer.
"First and foremost, we wanted something that would settle a little off the speed because we think there's going to be a bit of speed up front with The Monstar and Don't Give A Damn,'' King said.
"I've spoken to the trainer, owners and jockey of the horse and we got a really good deal. We like the horse and it allows us to own a share of the horse going forward.
"We are all so pumped, I was pumped when I got the phone call. I wasn't sure it was 100 per cent legit when I got the call.''
Belflyer will continue his preparation for the $1.3 million The Kosciuszko with a crucial exhibition gallop between races at Grafton today.
Shelton said Belflyer would have a solo workout as he revealed plans to keep the horse fresh and not race him again before Royal Randwick on October 13.
"I'm really happy with how Belflyer is coming along," Shelton said. "He's a very athletic sort of horse, he keeps himself up to the mark, and races best when kept fresh.''
Belfyer deserves his chance in the big race after a career-best season in 2017-18, winning the Moree Cup, Ballina Community Cup and The Jackal Sprint, before finishing a close second to Havasay in the Listed Ramornie Handicap.
His only start this season was at the Gold Coast in late August when he charged home to finish third behind Looks Like Elvis.
"If I can have Belflyer like he was going into the Ramornie he won't get beaten very far in The Kosciuszko,'' Shelton said.
"The Ramornie is a good yardstick, it's one of the best country sprint races and he ran a great race. The big stretches at Randwick will play into his 'hands'.
"But, the line-up of horses already in The Kosciuszko is very good.''
Belflyer is has opened the betting at $13 with Ladbrokes futures markets, behind Matthew Dunn's Care To Think, the $3.50 favourite, ahead of Victorem ($6) and After All That and The Monstar ($7).
Shelton is also saddling up three starters at his home track meeting today - Better Be Good in the Class 3 Handicap (1620m), King Of Monaco in the Maiden Handicap (1720m) and Caro Cavallo contests the Class 1 Handicap (1420m).
"All three should run well,'' Shelton said. "They should be around the money but it is hard to win races at Grafton, its competitive racing.''
Shelton has decided to put the blinkers back on Better Be Good after the chestnut's fast-finishing third to Nothingforthepress a fortnight ago.
"He's won over a mile (a1600m) previously,'' Shelton said. "He's probably our best chance (today).''
Better Be Good has only five rivals after the scratching of Shadow Prince but they include handy gallopers Tristan De Angel and Pleased.
with Ray Thomas