PRAYING for rain Wyong trainer Kristen Buchanan holds the key to the possible winner of the $60,000 XXXX Gold Taree Cup (2000m) at Taree Wingham Race Club's eight race TAB meeting at Bushland Drive Racecourse on Sunday
She has six-year-old gelding Lucky Liaison not only in the cup but also accepted the galloper for Sydney tomorrow.
"I have been praying for rain for the last month because a real wet track plays into my horse's favour," Buchanan said.
"I have accepted with him in Sydney on Saturday but my preference at this stage (Wednesday) is to come to Taree.
"I am happy with him, he is rock solid and I can't wait," she said.
Lucky Liaison has been consistent in not being further back than sixth at his last four runs in Sydney behind winners Paederos, Multilateral, Laidback Larry and Saigon Tea.
The biggest margin back from those winners was on August 9 when Lucky Liaison was 4.5 lengths behind Saigon Tea over 2400m on a dead track at Randwick on August 9.
The gelding carried 56.5kgs on that occasion and is nicely weighted at 55kgs for the cup, a handicap most suitable in this field.
Last year's cup runner-up to Wyong's Gazza Guru, five-year-old Taree gelding Phrases, trained by Bindi Cheers, is grey in colour but is the "dark" horse of the field.
Cheers said at Taree Wingham's last meeting that the winner of six races, including one in town, had a cough.
An inquiry on Wednesday as to how Phrases was progressing was met with: "I don't want anything about my horses in the paper."
Since the gelding's second in last year's cup, Phrases has had 26 more starts for two wins, including the Port Macquarie Cup over 2000m in October and 10 placings, many of them in the city, for prizemoney of around $179,000 and rises 2kgs in this race.
Its last race may have been fifth and last over 2400m behind Saigon Tea at Randwick on August 9, but the break and back to 2000m should be in the gelding's favour to provide a hometown victory.
Hawkesbury eight-year-old gelding Scottish Border, trained by Garry Frazer, turned in a bottler equal fourth, beaten just over a half-length behind Mr Scary over 1800m at Randwick on August 14 and has been close up in all its four starts since winning the Wingham Cup over 1600m on this track on June 6.
Its winning jockey on that occasion was Gosford's Chris O'Brien and he knows all the gears on the gelding to make it competitive so long as the track is reasonable.
Port Macquarie seven-year-old mare Juste Si ran home well for trainer John Sprague for second to Onemore Eightmore in the Taree Cup Prelude over 1624m in a track record and like the winner, trained on the track by Bob Milligan, the 2000m is a new distance for them.
"I always reckoned she would get the journey - it is a case of trial and error," said Sprague who will have premier Port jockey Peter Graham ride the mare.
Juste Si is in the best form of her career with two wins and three second at her last five starts.
Onemore Eightmore was in the lead all the way in the Prelude and still had something in the tank and being by Octagonal should get the cup journey.
Warwick Farm trainer Marc Connors and owner Ian Hardy are heading north in the hope of a soft track for eight-year-old gelding Letchworth.
"He has been racing on hard tracks at Canterbury but wants wet tracks to do his best," Connors said.
The go forward gelding has won over 1900m at Canterbury.
Australia's most winning jockey Robert Thompson from Cessnock missed out on riding one of the early favourites, Coffs Harbour Cup winner Southern Shimmer from Taree, but has been snapped up by Coffs trainer Phillip Minter to ride Samsili.
The galloper has won its past two races over 2100m at Gosford and 2300m at Coffs,the latter when ridden by Thompson.
Minter said he had spent a fruitless 10-hour trip to Brisbane to race Samsili but the meeting was washed out last week and he had to return empty-handed.
"It is a big step up on Sunday but my horse is probably in the best form of its career."
Another who suffered the same fate with Brisbane last Saturday being washed out, is Cessnock trainer Jeremy Sylvester with six-year-old gelding Collar.
Of the others, seven-year-old gelding Frozen Rope, trained by Adam Duggan, is capable over the journey of the cup and may have found the 1600m of the Coffs Cup at its last start when sixth, short of its best.
Broadmeadow trainer Kris Lees has a chance with Slivovitz after a recent second in Sydney but it also is a dual acceptor, being in a Sydney race tomorrow.but can add further spice to what should be a beaut race.