TRAVANCORE - With seven of his nine rivals resuming from a spell, race fitness looks the key for the Bryce Heys-trained Travancore in the South Coast Party Hire Benchmark 67 Handicap (1200m). Travencore did a good job finishing in the placings at Newcastle resuming after enduring a wide run in transit and is a horse that has improved with a run under his belt in previous preparations. If that’s the case Travancore is the horse to beat on Saturday and looks genuine value at the $5.50 available in early betting markets.
GRIPPED - The Wayne Wilkes-trained Gripped will launch from barrier one in the A.J. Pipelines Class 1 Handicap (1300m) and has the form credentials to take advantage of the gate. A Tamworth maiden winner over 1200m on debut last April in his only first preparation run, Gripped worked home solidly when fourth at Port Macquarie on November 28 over an unsuitable 1000m finishing 1-1/2 lengths from the winner Dual Escape. Gripped raced on the speed in his Tamworth maiden win and is likely to use the inside gate stepping up in distance on Friday. Gripped is in with a winnable weight after the 2kg claim for Chloe Baker and will be all the better for the first-up run. With the knowledge of knowing the advantage barrier one has over the trip, Gripped rates as the day’s best on Friday.
LOVE TIME - Horses that can win a maiden and class one in successive races are always hard to beat for the hat-trick and that looks the case for the Paddy Cunningham-trained Love Time who is chasing three wins on the trot in the Coffs Harbour Harwood Class 3 Handicap (1400m). Love Time missed a placed in each of her three runs in her first preparation but has really hit her straps this time winning a Grafton maiden over 1400m on November 21 before going back to back at the same track and distance on December 3. Love Time is drawn to get all the favours in the run jumping from barrier three and is still down in the weights carrying 1kg over the limit jumping a grade. It’s hard to find a reason to suggest Love Time won’t win again.
DESERT RUSH - If Love Time can get the money in the earlier race it augers well for Desert Rush’s chances in the Watsons Caravans @ R.V’s Benchmark 55 Handicap (1600m). Having her first start for trainer Cathy Chapman after previously being prepared by David Kelly, Desert Rush had no luck in the Love Time race with the filly figuring prominently in the stewards' report. A check at the top of the straight was followed by hampering at the 200m and a tightening at the 100m with Racenet’s video analyst comment summing up the interference – “Never got a crack at them down the straight”. Desert Rush just needs even luck in running on Friday to make amends.
TERRITORIAL - Early betting for the Shireen Sieler Memorial Class 3 Handicap (1000m) suggest it is a race in two between the early favourite, the Garry Frazer-trained Identic and Territorial from the Tash Burleigh stable at Goulburn, but there is enough evidence to suggest the bookies may have the wrong market order. Identic is in winning form with victories at Goulburn and Gosford at his latest two outings but will have to lump 61kg if she is to get the hat-trick on Thursday. Territorial was a winner at the track and distance two runs back before a solid performance in a Highway Handicap at Rosehill last start finishing 2-1/2 lengths from the winner Equal Balance. Territorial will have 55.5kg on his back and that 5.5kg weight differential gives the son of Real Saga every chance to topple the odds-on favourite.