A wait and see game on the immediate future of Friday’s Viatek Muswellbrook cup meeting is being played out by the state’s racing officials.
They are waiting on the results of COVID-19 tests on Hugh Bowman and Tommy Berry after they shared a charter plane with Melbourne jockey Mark Zahra who had been exposed to a person with the virus.
Several jockeys who have rides at the cup meeting shared the jockeys’ room with Berry and Bowman at Rosehill last Saturday and Canterbury on Wednesday.
“We are in a holding pattern but at this stage the meeting is going ahead,” Muswellbrook Race Club’s chief executive, Duane Dowell, said.
“We want it to go ahead and there will be strict protocols in place for all participants just as there were at last Sunday’s Wild Card meeting.
“Once the results of the tests are known Racing NSW will then inform us whether we are racing or not.”
If the meeting goes ahead it will be on a track rated probably as a slow six or even a five following overnight rain and that could sway Kris Lees on whether to start top weight Articus and last start winner Top Prospect in the cup.
Both horses are also acceptors for the first race at Rosehill on Saturday.
“They will both go to wettest track,” Lees said.
“I am 50/50 on where to send them and I probably won’t make a decision until the morning.”
Articus will be resuming but has had the benefit of two trials while Top Prospect resumed with a fighting win over 1400 metres on the Kensington track on March 4.
That was his first run back from a break and his first win for Lees since being switched from Darren Weir.
“Articus is a very good horse, he loves the sting out of the ground and always goes well fresh,” Lees said.
“I could not have been happier with the way Top Prospect fought back to win when the second horse kept coming at him.”
The two horses galloped on the course proper between races at the Newcastle meeting last Thursday and both were impressive.
“It was very impressive work from both of them,” Lees said.
Top Prospect will be ridden by Samantha Clenton if he goes to Muswellbrook and that will give the town and district a local link.
The other local link lies with the Nathan Doyle trained Petrology which has had two starts for him since coming from Matthew Dunn at Murwillumbah.
In both cases he ran sixth, the second behind Top Prospect.
Doyle is an old Muswellbrook boy who started his career in his hometown then went to Peter and Paul Snowden and Mark Newnham to gain more experience before moving to Scone then finally setting up his base in Newcastle.
He has had considerable success since then and the star of the stable is Pride Of Adelaide which runs in the Tulloch Stakes at Rosehill on Saturday and is the $5.50 third favourite.
There is so much depth in the cup that the favourite, at $6, is the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace trained Ken’s Dream (Louise Day).
He sits just ahead of Top Prospect and the Bjorn Baker trained Bobby Dee at $6.50 followed by Royal Tudor (Jeff Penza) at $8 and the John Thompson trained Commander (Keagan Latham) at $8.
There is even more depth to the Horsepower Skellatar Sprint where the Mark Newnham trained Black Magnum (Rory Hutchings) and the Baker trained Miss Invincible (Keagan Latham) share favouritism at $4.80.
Muswellbrook old boy Steve Englebrecht returns to where his training career began with his speedy mare Goldfinch in the sprint and she is rated an $11 chance after drawing the outside barrier.
Doyle should start the meeting on a winning note with Dreaming Of Gold (Christian Reith) in the first race, the Prime 7 Maiden (1280m).
Dreaming Of Gold has had five starts for five seconds with the last two at Hawkesbury and the drop back to country grade has him as the early favourite at $2.60.
1-1.45, PRIME 7 MAIDEN, 1280m: DREAMING OF GOLD 1, Brother Bassy 2, Shamusu Sho 3, Souchong 4.
2-2.25, MUSWELLBROOK RSL GOLF CLUB BENCHMARK 58, 1750m: MORE SPICE 1, Yorkshire Rock 2, Colesberg 3, Hubble 4.
3-3.05, PIRTEK MUSWELLBROOK BENCHMARK 58, 1280m: LADY LLEWELLYN 1, Fox Spirit 2, Big Legged Woman 3, Rose Of Savannah 4.
4-3.40, BHP MT ARTHUR COAL WAYNE HARRIS HCP, 1280m: GREAT DANGER 1, Emperor’s Star 2, Powerline 3, Trophies Galore 4.
5-4.20, EATONS HOTEL CLASS ONE, 1000m: CHIANTI 1, For Love 2, Step On Fire 3, Vox Pop 4.
6-4.55, HORSEPOWER SKELLATAR SPRINT, 1000m: MISS INVINCIBLE 1, Black Magnum 2, Star Boy 3, Rare Episode 4.
7-5.30, VIATEK MUSWELLBROOK GOLD CUP, 1500m: TOP PROSPECT 1, Ken’s Dream 2, Bobby Dee 3, Commander 4.
8-6.05, TAB COUNTRY MAGIC CLASS THREE, 1450m: ABSOLUTE TRUST 1, Whiteley 2, Barbass 3, Good Excuse 4.
Best Bets: Dreaming Of Gold, Miss Invincible.