LOCAL trainer Glen Milligan has a strong hand in the final race at Taree on Monday and - like bookmakers - finds it hard to split his two horses.
Bear's A Star and Golden Honour are both quoted at $5 with TAB Fixed Odds in the Shoreline Tavern Harrington Waters CG&E Benchmark 58 Handicap over 1250 metres, behind only the favourite Edge Of Midnight ($3.40).
It will be the second time in a row the Milligan-trained pair have started in the same race. Golden Honour finished third of 12 and Bear's A Star was 10th in a Class 1 event over 1250 metres at Taree on November 19.
It was the first real blemish in Bear's A Star's short career. The three-year-old gelding had finished second, first and third in his only other starts.
Bear's A Star had gone from three races each over 1007 metres up to 1250, but Milligan doesn't necessarily think it was the rise in distance that was the problem and is obviously prepared to give the horse another crack at it.
The trainer thinks it was more that after jumping well from an inside draw Bear's A Star drifted back to midfield along the fence as other horses crossed from the outside and that he struggled to get into the race from there.
"I was very disappointed with him the other day," Milligan said. "He got shuffled a pair further back than I would've liked and I'll get Zac (Wadick, his jockey) to ride him more on speed on Monday.
"I don't want him getting back. There's no turn of foot with him, he keeps grinding, so I'll get Zac to drive him out of the gates and ride him like a good thing, not far off the speed. That'll give him his best chance of winning.
"Bear's A Star is a lot better horse than Golden Honour on their work at least. They worked together before that last race and Bear's A Star was way too good for him. Bear's A Star's a better horse than he showed last start."
Four-year-old gelding Golden Honour won over 1400 metres at Kempsey two starts back and then dropped back to the 1250.
His third to Solutionist had plenty of merit about it as he raced wide throughout, had to come from a fair way back on the home turn and was forced to change direction in the straight after eventual second placgetter Yareakh fanned wide across its path.
"The barrier (nine in a 12-horse field) isn't ideal," Milligan said. "Ash (Morgan) rode him the other day, first sit on him and he was very impressed with the way he kept finding the line. Impressed enough to get back on him and ride him for me again on Monday.
"Hopefully it pans out a bit more speed and he can slot in with a bit of cover, that would be great. Needs a bit of speed on and a bit of cover and something to take him into the race at the right time. With the right run he's got a shot at winning, for sure. I think he's a real good chance."
Smith on target with Newsbeat
WARWICK Farm trainer Matt Smith is a master at finding races his horses can win and bookmakers think he has hit the right target with Newsbeat at the Taree meeting on Monday.
The four-year-old gelding will be trying to break through for his first victory when he contests the Xmas Eve Races At Taree CG&E Maiden Handicap over 1300 metres and TAB Fixed Odds has installed him as the $2.90 favourite.
Newsbeat has raced four times, three of them in provincial class. His first two runs were at Hawkesbury, followed by Scone and Gosford.
At his first start, over 1100 metres, he raced up near the lead and faded in the straight to finish ninth of 10. In each of his three starts since, over 1100, 1200 and 1100 again, he raced back in the field and made up good ground in the straight to finish just behind the placegetters.
The extra distance of the Taree race and the drop back to country class look to be big factors supporting Newsbeat's chances of finally breaking through. He's no superstar, but it's not a strong race.
Smith recently produced horses to break through in maiden races at Gosford and Wyong. He is currently eighth on the NSW trainers' premiership for this season with 26 winners from 151 runners at all venues, giving him an impressive winning strike-rate of 17.2 per cent.
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