Cool-hand Luke heads the Scone juggernaut

LUKE Griffith celebrated his third Hunter and North West Racing Association trainers’ premiership a few weeks ago.

No fuss and bother, no big celebration.

Instead, the Scone trainer  was back on the road ferrying more of his horses to meetings across the Northern Inland and North and Central Coasts.

He trained 63 winners all up last season, his horses winning $870,000 in prizemoney for their owners.

In the Hunter and North West Racing Association, he finished with 43 wins, four more than Newcastle’s Paul Perry and 10 more than third-placed Greg Bennett (33), with Tamworth’s Sue Grills next with 32.

“That’s my best season,”  Griffith told The Leader.

“I usually have between 25 to 30 in work. I have 23 boxes here.”

He also won the Country Trainers’ Premiership for a second successive year and is one of four finalists in the Country Trainer of the Year Award.

He and fellow Scone trainer Greg Bennett have been nominated along with Brett Cavanough and Neil Godbolt.

It was also  Bennett’s best season.

He finished with 33 wins in the HNWRA and has also knocked back invites to move north to Caloundra and the Sunshine Coast.

While he won’t move there, he might race there more often, he reckons.

Another Scone trainer, Rod Northam, finished the season in style.

After a slow start, he warmed up and was the star of the Clarence River Jockey Club’s July Carnival, winning the South Grafton Cup with Myamira and the Ramornie Handicap with Big Money.

His first winner of the new season came in the shape of Celebrities Choice at Tamworth on August 15.

She might be off to the breeding barn but both Myamira and Big Money are back in work.

“I had a great end to the season,” Northam said.

“Myamira and Big Money both did well. 

“Myamira’s back in work and being aimed at The Pendant in Sydney over 1400m at the end of September.

“Big Money will run a few weeks later at Caulfield. 

“We’ll see how he goes down there first before we make any other decisions.”

Big Money has already won the NSW Racehorse Owners Association Country Horse of the Year.

He and Myamira are also nominated for the Country Racing NSW Horse of the Year Award along with Paul Messara’s pair Havana and Mahisara.

It’s an all-Scone affair for that award while the Scone Race Club is also in the running for the Country TAB Race Club of the Year.

Those awards also feature the Country Media Award where veteran Tamworth racecaller Bob Poetschka is nominated.

Scone trainer Luke Griffith won a third HNWRA  premiership at the end of July and leads in this year’s title race already.

Scone trainer Luke Griffith won a third HNWRA premiership at the end of July and leads in this year’s title race already.

Poetschka tackles Andrew Bensley, Doug Ryan and Grafton’s Daily Examiner for the coveted media gong.

The past season also threw up some new names such as Gunnedah’s Sally Torrens.

A pacing driver-trainer for some 22 years, she turned her hand to thoroughbreds and won her first race with her very first starter, Subtract, at Tamworth on January 31.

Since then she’s had eight more wins, the latest being a win in the Keith Kilby Memorial Class 3 Handicap at Gilgrandra with Estada two weeks back.

She was also leading the HNWRA’s 2014-15 premiership (jointly) with two wins for a few weeks as well.

The past season was also notable for the booming success that is Scone Race Club’s Cup Carnival and stand-alone metro Saturday meeting and Armidale’s win in the Ipswich Cup with Brave Ali.

Craig Martin did train Brave Ali for a large Armidale syndicate, winning a Quirindi Cup with him, but he left the gelding with Tony Gollan in Brisbane when he went on holidays and the top Queensland trainer then won a couple of Saturday Brisbane races as well as the Ipswich Cup.

Martin also won with Walcha Cup-winning Jefferson Park in Brisbane and the gelding raced there again two Saturdays back, finishing third on a heavy track. 

Sue Grills also raced in Brisbane that same Saturday with It’s A Saga, who also finished third.

She finished fourth behind Griffith, Perry and Bennett in the HNWRA trainers’ premiership, a title she won a few seasons back.

“It was a good season but, gee, it’s getting tougher to win a race,” she said.

“It’s real hard now with so many of the provincial and city trainers coming  our way to race.”

She generally has between 25 and 30 horses in work as well and won club premierships at Armidale and Walcha as well as finishing second to  Griffith at Tamworth (13 wins to Griffith’s 21).

Griffith also won the Gunnedah and Quirindi premierships while  Bennett was a big winner at Scone, winning their trainers’  title (16) by three wins from Kris Lees (3),  Messara (10) and Perry (10).

Tamworth Jockey Club also held another successful Tamworth Cup meeting, with the Lees-trained Pitt Street successful.

Jeremy Sylvester won the Mornington Handicap with Collar, who then went on  and won the Gunendah Cup. 

Sylvester also won the Lightning at Quirindi with Youthful King.

It was more good news for the Tamworth Jockey Club when it was confirmed as one of seven clubs to hold $100,000 qualifying races for next April’s $300,000 Country Championship. Those seven qualifying events are to be staged  in March next year, with the winner and runner-up from Tamworth joining the other top -placed horses from similar events in Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Goulburn, Bathurst, Grafton and Port Macquarie in the rich final during  The Championships at Royal Randwick.

Also, Griffith made the opening month of the new season a good one when Bouzy Rouge, second to Myamira in the South Grafton Cup, won a Saturday Sydney race.

Griffith now leads this year’s HNWRA Trainers’ Premiership after Adamant Lass won at Armidale two Saturdays back.

He has three wins in the HNWRA, one more than James Berry, Jane Clement, Pat Farrell,  Lees, Mark Mason and  Torrens.

Dubbo jockey Greg Ryan, now serving a six-week suspension, won the HNWRA jockeys’ premiership but Robert Thompson, who has shot to an early lead in this season’s HNWRA title race, had a big season.

He won his 10th Jungle Juice Cup on Youthful King for good mate  Sylvester, and also partnered Collar to wins in the Mornington Handicap (at Tamworth) and the Gunnedah Cup.

Vad Bolozhinskyi won the HNWRA apprentices’ premiership  and also leads this season’s title.

The 1.5kg claiming apprentice was hard at it at Tamworth on Tuesday as well.

The 2013-14 HNWRA premierships will be awarded at a presentation ceremony at the Scone Race Club’s meeting on Friday, September 26, an eight-race TAB meeting highlighted by the $15,000 Dangar Open Handicap (1100m).


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