THREE days until the XXXX Gold July Racing carnival blasts into action.
Bring it on.
Excitement and anticipation's building….. rapidly, especially for young local trainer Shane Everson.
The 28-year-old will saddle up Starlist in the $17,000 Westlawn Finance Grafton Cup Prelude (2100m).
While a subsequent start in Clarence River Jockey Club's flagship event, the $150,000 Wykes Tyre Power Grafton Cup (2350m) on July 14, remains a pipe dream, Everson and his old boss, John Shelton, hope to strike an early blow for the locals by snaring a feature race.
Shelton has nominated three horses – Darshan Joh, Ibalance and Innocent Tassie – in Thursday's other feature, the $17,000 John Carlton Cup (1200m).
Trainers nominated 190 horses for the meeting (208 last year). Encouraging numbers.
Everson, raised in Iluka before moving to Grafton as an 18-year-old, is quietly confident Starlist, a five-year-old gelding, will acquit himself well on his home dung hill.
“Realistically he won't go into the Grafton cup unless he won impressively,” Everson said. “I wouldn't throw him in just to make up the numbers.
“He's a big dopey bugger, 12 months away from peaking.
“But this (the Prelude) is the race I've set him for, tried to time his preparation to be at his best Thursday.
“He's come a long way since winning a Class 1 at a non-TAB meeting at Moree (December 18, 2010) to running in a Murwillumbah Cup.”
Everson races the son of Honours List on lease with younger brother Jeremy and Newcastle-based owner, Judy Maynard.
Starlist's stable nickname – Merv – is gleaned from Maynard's husband Merv Maynard, a former top jockey.
Starlist has been in almost constant work for since June last year.
In late April, with the Grafton carnival in mind, Everson allowed the gelding a 33-day break.
He turned in an encouraging effort when third in the Beef Week Cup, over an unsuitable 1400m, then finished third over 1618m at Grafton on June 10, before his last start fifth in the Murwillumbah Cup (2000m) on June 26.
“He turned in a ripper at Casino, then just knocked up a bit at Grafton,” Everson said. “His run in the Murwillumbah Cup on a shifty track, which he doesn't like, was very good.
“He's been a bit under-done going into each race. In the cup they poured the pressure on from the 1000 metres. He was entitled to stop but he kept whacking away, went across the line with a couple of others, just beaten for third.
“He galloped good Monday, seems to be at the top of his game. At this stage he's doing everything right.
“If he gets a dry track at Grafton, the weather looks good, that's right up his alley.”
Since coming under Everson's care, two of the gelding's four wins, have been at Grafton - “he loves just walking across the road to race,” Everson added.
Matthew Paget retains the mount.
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