BRAVE Ali finished second in last year’s $30,000 Walcha Cup.
Yesterday, the Armidale-owned gelding was one of 20 nominations for the 2014 $30,000 Walcha Cup (1440m) and one of two nominations from Craig Martin’s Tamworth stable.
Martin, originally from Walcha, won the Walcha Cup with Mt Rainier in 2012 when the race was won at Armidale due to heavy rain. There is no worries on the weather front this year as Martin prepares to saddle up both Brave Ali and Jefferson Park, a half brother of Mt Rainier.
Jefferson Park was an impressive winner of the Walcha Cup Prelude at Armidale last month and is owned and raced by Jill Nivison, who also owned Mt Rainier.
Brave Ali was a close second to Pitt Street in last year’s Walcha Cup, recalled Walcha Jockey Club secretary Kevin Ferrier. “It was a great run,” Ferrier said.
“He was only beaten a half head and then it was a nose to Blinkin Easy. Jefferson Park (its stablemate) goes pretty well too. That was a good win at Armidale (in the Walcha Cup Prelude). He’s going to be hard to beat but it all depends on the draws.
“You have to draw inside nine really to win over the 1440m here.”
Ferrier was delighted by the nominations for both days.
“We got 195 for the cup day last year,” he said.
“That was huge. The drought has had a bit of an effect up here but 141 noms is still good for the cup day.
“Thirty two in the Ron Martin Memorial Maiden is brilliant. We’ll run 14 in that. We used to run 20 in the old days. I know that because Docket won from barrier 20 one year. He was a really good horse owned by the Gills and Nivisons and trained by Ronnie Martin. He went on to win races in Sydney after that.” Ferrier said the WJC has had to extend nominations in two of Friday’s eight TAB-covered races but expects to pick up a few horses in those to make eight strong races on cup day.
He’s also exceptionally pleased by the response to Saturday’s five-race non-TAB meeting.
“We got 72 nominations for Saturday, that’s excellent,” he said.
“We’ll have five even races on Saturday too. The main race there will be The Nivison and that should have a good even field.
“We’ve also invited Mr Cullen (HNWRA chief steward Shane Cullen) to come up and inspect the track too.
“It might be dry but the track is in great shape. We had to close the track for training so we would be able to race this week.
‘It was tough on the local trainers but they were able to use the sand track.
“We just needed to look after the main track to make sure we raced I think we did the right thing. Everything is right to go.”
The WJC has also received around 200 seats from the Sydney Cricket Ground and placed them around the track under the shade of the many trees that make the track such a unique facility.