BALLINA CUP: Queen’s team enters race for crown
SHE has been referred to as the “Queen of Lismore”, but that could change to “Queen of Ballina” when Queen of Kingston contests today’s $65,000 Slipway Hotel Ballina Cup.
The six-year-old mare, who has had eight wins from 28 starts, has finally drawn a gate (2) and will start one of the favourites in the 1600m race.
It has been described as one of the best Ballina Cup fields assembled and that would make a win by Queen of Kingston even more regal.
“The last time she drew a good gate she won a good mile race at Ipswich on Cup day,” trainer Daniel Bowen said.
“In most of the other races she hasn’t drawn well and we haven’t been able to ride her forward.
“If she can be fourth or fifth she can then sprint, that’s her go.”
He recalled races like the 1600m Coffs Harbour Cup where she had drawn an outside gate and never got into the race, running on for a fifth to Love Shack Baby.
“She was unlucky, (but) still ran well,” Bowen said. “If she can be close to them she’ll be in the finish.
“60.5kg is a worry. She’s probably going to have to set a weight-carrying record for a mare to win the Cup.”
He’d love to win it as well because of his late father, Danny Bowen.
“Dad won a Ballina Cup. I haven’t yet. Be nice to win one because I grew up in Ballina working for dad, too,” he said.
One thing he doesn’t need is a lot of rain.
While she doesn’t mind the sting out of the ground, a heavier surface in tandem with the big weight might be a killer.
Ballina Jockey Club general manager Matt Bertram said the track was rated a Soft 6 on Wednesday afternoon and he expected it to be a Good 5 come race day.
“Rains is forecast but I don’t think it will be a wet track,” he said.
“It’s forecast for 28 degrees (on race day) with no significant rain, so I think it could get to a Good 5. It’s a good wet track here, too. Good when its dry, so should be close to perfect for the Cup.”
The Cup itself, he said, “is a good mix”.
“We have a good mix of locals and horses travelling down from Queensland,” he said.
“We’ve got some of the best jockeys riding here, too ‒ Robbie Fradd, Larry Cassidy, Ryan Plumb.
“There are some good horses, too ‒ Smartypy and Bodega Negra race well. Bodega Negra has raced well here before and will be suited.”
Yet it is the uncrowned Queen of Ballina ‒ Queen of Kingston ‒ that seems to keep on racing back into Cup prominence.
The mare, a daughter of Nicconi, is owned by Lismore baker Steve Butcher and his wife Karen.
They have shared some wonderful moments with Bowen over the number of preparations, wins and losses, Queen of Kingston has had.
She has raced in some handy races including last April’s $500,000 Country Championship Final at Royal Randwick, where she ran a gallant fourth to Nobel Boy. She drew 14 in that field, too, but motored home to be beaten three and half lengths.
“She got a little more weight than I thought she’d get,” Butcher said.
“I thought she might get around 57kg. But at least she’s drawn a good gate this time and Daniel is confident.
“If she can be near them (in the straight), then she has a sprint.”
And that could finally see her crowned the Queen of Ballina.