Gayna Williams-trained Kookabaa claims impressive win in TAB.COM.AU Benchmark 58 at Muswellbrook

SOME key gear changes and a great ride from Josh Adams to give him a winning double led to the Gayna Williams-trained Kookabaa scoring a strong win in the TAB.COM.AU Benchmark 58 (1000m) at Muswellbrook on Thursday.

The four-year-old, having his fifth run for Williams since being switched to her from a city stable, is now bound for a Highway Hcp.

He took the winkers off the horse and fitted blinkers and ear muffs and applied a tongue tie.

“He was going too hard early and gassing himself towards the end of his races,” Williams said.

“I took the winkers off and put the blinkers and ear muffs on to try and get him to settle.

“One of the girls that rides work for me suggested last week I put a tongue tie on him.

“He wasn’t making a noise but he was playing with his tongue a lot.

“He is a lovely, quiet horse but has his fair share of ability.

“He is definitely up to Highway Hcp standard and before I got him, he had run some races on Sydney tracks.”

Adams, who won earlier on Sennacherib for Richard Freedman, let Kookabaa drop out to third last then finished fast down the outside to win by one and quarter lengths.

The race ended on a sad note when The Wild West broke down in the straight.


THE Rosehill-trained Beaufort Park (Travis Wolfgram) was described as a “big, dumb bugger” after the three-year-old scored an easy win in the Silks Function Centre Three-Year-Old Maiden (1280m).

The horse is trained by Gerald Ryan who was at the Gold Coast sales and represented by son Blake.

“This horse is just a big, dumb bugger and he is still six or even 12 months away from being at his best,” Ryan said.

“I was worried when it took a long time to load another horse because he was slowly away at Goulburn at his first start and I was afraid the same thing would happen today.

“He got away alright and Travis did the right thing by taking him forward and sitting just off the pace.

“In time I think he will be a 1600m horse and that he will need blinkers.”

At his first start Beaufort Park missed the kick at Goulburn, got back to last early then constantly ran into trouble in the straight as he tried to make ground.

Despite that the Brett Cavanough-trained Charlotte’s Heart was backed into $2.80 favouritism while Beaufort Park eased to second favourite at $3.

Charlotte’s Heart ran second, beaten two and a half lengths, but never look likely to catch the winner.


IT was an anniversary of sorts for Tamworth trainer Michelle Fleming and apprentice Alena Skerritt when Ayham led nearly all the way to score a fighting win in the Bengalla Mining Benchmark 66 (1500m).

At this meeting last year Fleming and Skerritt combined to win the Benchmark 59 also over 1500 metres with Ayham.

The seven-year-old then went on to score consecutive wins at Tamworth and Quirindi and was having his fourth run here from a spell.

He led to the 150 metres until headed by the favourite I Am Awesome and Kiarra Rose but then kicked back to beat the favourite by a head with Kiara Rose another short head away third.

“He is a tough horse,” Fleming said.

“He does not have a sprint so he has to be ridden in the lead but he has that ability to find another leg at the finish.

“I will take him home now and see what is available.

“He can get 1500m but he can’t run a mile.”

The Fleming trained St Luke also ran a solid race to finish fourth and the trainer plans to take him to Gunnedah for the Summer Cup (1600m) on Tuesday.


A HUGE plunge on the Richard Freedman-trained Sennacherib was successful when the colt, ridden by Josh Adams, overcame a wide barrier to win the Muswellbrook Cup Tickets On Sale Maiden (1000m) with a sustained display of speed.

Sennacherib, backed in from $18 to start at $7.50, ran a smart 57.45 seconds to win by two lengths from the Luke Thomas trained Spanish Missile.

Adams said the stable had been confident the colt could win despite the barrier.

“It wasn’t a problem because he has so much early speed and I was able to get him across and into the lead,” he explained.

“I have been riding work for Richard for the last couple of weeks and this is one of the horses I ride regularly.

“I rode him a couple of weeks ago when he ran third at Newcastle and he was a baby but he has matured now.

“He is a man.”

Sennacherib easily won the start but was joined in the lead by Labrusco. However, in the straight Sennacherib kicked away while Labrusco wilted to run fourth while the Muswellbrook trained Spanish Missile (Andrew Gibbons) had a chequered run in the straight after coming from worse than mid-field.


GRANT Buckley was quick to criticise his own ride on Star Crossed ($3.90) despite a strong win in the Pirtek Muswellbrook Sprint (1000m).

“I got to the lead too early,” Buckley said.

“It was my first ride on the horse and I would love to have waited another 100m before going to the lead.

“However, he was strong and it was a good win.”

The Philip Atkins trained five-year-old was having his third run back from a break and it will be weeks before he has his next run.

“He is a horse that only has a couple of runs each preparation and each run has to be well spaced,” Atkins said.

“He is just a fresh horse but, on his day, can run a race like that and the speed in the race suited him.”

Don’t Tease Me (Ceejay Graham) opened up a big break while Buckley had Star Crossed back last early.

Buckley took Star Crossed wide and gradually gathered in the leaders to win by half a length from Still Undaunted.    


CODY Morgan’s ability to turn a horse around has never been more evident than with Manabar which scored his fourth win for the trainer in the Mr Arthur Coal Benchmark 58 (1280m).

The horse went to Morgan in 2017 after 22 starts in Queensland for one win.

Since coming under Morgan’s care the horse has had eight starts for two wins at Tamworth and one each at Quirindi and Muswellbrook.

Morgan was at the Gold Coast sales and it was left to his father Glen to saddle up and he was quick to praise the ride by apprentice Wendy Peel.

“She showed a lot of initiative by deciding to go to the front when the leader started to ease back,” he said.

“Cody told Wendy to be positive with the horse and that is exactly what she did.

“She is an apprentice that is going to go a long way.

“She is a hard worker with Sue Grills and regularly comes over and gives us a hand.”

The favourite, Helsonic (Josh Adams), went to the lead early but had its head up while Manabar ($4.80) sat in his outside.

When Adams was finally able to get Helsonic to settle and the horse started to drop back and Peel went to the lead and was never headed to win by three lengths from Marfaz.

Helsonic wilted badly to finish 11th.


WYONG trainer Ben Hill was a little emotional after Gacela (Shaun Guymer) scored a boil over win at long odds in the Horsepower Class One and Maiden (1750m) as a maiden.

“She was the first horse in our stable when I started training two years ago so yes, it is a bit emotional for us,” Hill said.

“When I got her we couldn’t keep condition on her so I kept putting her in and out and now she is holding her condition really well.

“When I started training, people knew I did not have much patience.

“Now I know how to spell it.”

Gacela ($41) was having her 26th start for Hill and, until this race, had run 10 minor placings.

Guymer settled Gacela in sixth place early with True Finesse and Streetcar To Stars setting the pace.

In the straight Gacela got through an opening to set out after the leaders and go on a win by three quarters of a length from Ticket To Riches.

Streetcar To Stars, the former Irish galloper now trained by Paul Perry, blew from a $1.75 to $4.60, and battled on fairly to run fifth.