Winkler eyes big July prize in South Grafton Cup
RACING: Grafton Cup runner up Winkler was one of the 21 nominations for Sunday's South Grafton Cup (1600m) today as the Clarence River Jockey Club geared up for the second day of its July Racing Carnival.
Nominations for the $50,000 Grafton Toyota South Grafton Cup are up on last year as are nominations for all seven of Sunday's races.
It comes amidst another round of prizemoney increases for country racing that will see both next year's G McMullan Contractors Grafton Cup and GDSC Ramornie Handicap worth $200,000 apiece.
CRJC chief executive officer Michael Beattie said the increase for next year's two feature days is $125,000.
"It's a major shot in the arm for Grafton, no doubt about that," Michael Beattie said.
"We couldn't be happier. It increases next year's two days by $125,000 and takes the five days to over $1.5million.
"Increasing the Ramornie and Cup to $200,000 puts them on a par with other races across the state where we should be.
"So many good races have been recognised across the State with these latest increases it's just fantastic.
"I think this year's carnival will be a real ripper because of that."
His optimism is buoyed by the increase of noms for Sunday's meeting.
"The South Grafton Cup noms have had a marginal increase, 18 last year to 21 this year while the meeting had 155 last year and are 188 this year.
"We're extremely happy with that. It's been helped by a few things.
"A couple of meetings have been washed out here (in the Northern Rivers Racing Association) recently but one of the biggest reasons is the move of the Westlawn Cup day to a week before."
He said the Grafton Toyota South Grafton Cup has been well supported by the bigger country stables and has "attracted the horse we are looking for," Beattie added.
He said Winkler's nomination was also good for the race.
"He did run second in last year's Cup," he said.
"He's had a change of trainer (Ethan Ensby) and having his first run back from a spell on Sunday. He won't be right for the Grafton Cup obviously but he'll be getting him ready for some nice Cup races."
Winkler is being prepared at Ballina by Ethan Ensby and isn't the only Ballina horse entered in Sunday's South Grafton Cup.
Ballina trainer Stephen Lee, second to Matt Dunn on the NRRA trainer's premiership, has nominated last start Gold Coast winner Sornja and Spiral.
Sornja has won her past two starts, Casino and Gold Coast, both over 1400m.
Murwillumbah trainer Matt Dunn has nominated three of his stable - Petrology, Zamex and Sovereign Nation - while last start winner, O'Driscoll, could give Port Macquarie trainer Tas Morton a great result.
Grafton Toyota South Grafton Cup nominations: (Benchmark ratings listed where available): American Diva (John Smerdon), Bodega Negra (Bruce Hill), Brilliant Jet (Aiden Nunn), Central Witness (Daniel Want), Cogliere (Marc Quinn) 85, Cruz De Vega (Michael Costa), Far North (Jeremy Everson) 60, Fastquest (Vince Jones) 54, Gold Ambition (Michael Costa) 79, Mister Maker (Catherine Inwood) 48, O'Driscoll (Tas Morton) 77, Pandemonium (Paul Messara), Petrology (Matthew Dunn), Pirate Ben (Damien Lane), Sawtell (Brett Dodson), Sornja (Stephen Lee), Sovereign Nation (Matthew Dunn), Spiral (Stephen Lee), Straight Home (Adam Wadick), Winkler (Ethan Ensby) 70, Zamex (Matthew Dunn).