RACING: GRAFTON trainer Neville Stewart had a winner with his final starter for 2017 and is looking for the same result with his first runner of the new year when Push The Sky Away lines up at Murwillumbah today.
Push The Sky Away chases her seventh win since joining Stewart's stable about 16 months ago when she tackles the KBBC.com.au New Year Hcp (1530m).
Stewart wrapped up 2017 with Cantillate, who scored in the final event at Ballina on Boxing Day. He is looking to kick-start 2018 with Push The Sky Away - his only runner at the seven-race Murwillumbah meeting.
"It'd be nice to start the new year off with a win and I think she'll be very competitive in that race,” said Stewart.
"She might be looking for a bit further now and I'm planning to step her up to 1900m at Kempsey next week. But looking at this race, I think she'll still run very well, especially on a soft track which will really suit her.
"She's been competitive in just about every race we've run her in and we've certainly had a lot of fun with her since we've had her. I think she'd had just the one placing from her first eight starts in Victoria but has won six races for us up here.”
Push The Sky Away was purchased for only $6000 by Stewart in 2016. She has been a consistent performer around the Northern Rivers since joining stable, winning six of her 20 starts and earning connections just over $90,000 in prizemoeny.
Push The Sky Away's most recent win was three runs back at Ballina on November 27 when she tackled an Open Hcp over 1260m second-up from a spell.
Sent out the rank outsider in the eight-horse field at $31, Push The Sky Away led most of the way and battled back strongly in the dying stages to hold on for an upset win.
She then went around at huge odds in the Listed Just Now Qualitly (1350m) at Doomben on December 9, finishing last behind Sylpheed.
At her most recent outing, Push The Sky Away finished sixth to Hippy Hi Ho in the Hannam Vale Cup (1614m) at Taree on December 18.
"Her recent form has been pretty good,” Stewart said. "I thought she'd run well in that Ballina race while she was fresh, even though it looked a bit short for her, and then she just found the Brisbane race too hot.
"She's got an awkward gate (barrier 11) today and she'll definitely go forward from that draw.”
Her biggest threat in the race will come from noted soft-tracker Moon And The Stars out of Harold Norman's Gold Coast stable.
The mare has a good record at Murwillumbah with two wins and a second from her three runs at the track. And she has run in the New Year Hcp at this corresponding meeting in the past two years - winning in 2016 and running second behind wet-tracker Champagne Rock (also lining up again on Tuesday) in heavy conditions last year.