Australia and Ireland clash in Saturday’s two Jumps Challenge events at Morphettville, with their national pride at stake.
The Irish have well and truly had the wood over the Australian’s in the last few years with the last Aussie victory coming way back in 2015 when Steven Pateman saluted on Eric Musgrove’s Agreement. Irishman Donagh Meyler was the talk of the town last year when he claimed all four races of the Irish Series across three racedays including the Morphettville double aboard Dane Hussler and Pentomatic.
Pentomatic returns to Irish Day this year and will be ridden by Australian Rob David. The nine-year-old last claimed victory at Murray Bridge in June in the Steeplechase with David’s Australian teammate Lee Horner aboard. He’ll line up in the Steeplechase in Race 2 along with last start winners Urban Explorer, Sir Lopez and Caroun. Visiting hoop Donal McInerney will get the plumb ride on nine-time jumps winner Urban Explorer while Patrick Payne’s Sir Lopez is putting together a serious record over the jumps with three wins and two seconds from seven starts. Richard Cully will take the ride on the Payne trained gelding who he rode to a last start victory earlier this month.
The Hurdle in Race 4 looks a mighty competitive affair with JJ Houlahan Hurdle placegetter Romelo lining up for Eric Musgrove and Braidon Small. The seven-year-old has only competed in two jumps races in his career but he has shown talent in his short time over the hurdles. Locally trained Searaven is an absolute model of consistency finishing in the placings in nine out of his last thirteen starts. The Barry Brook trained gelding is the most experienced jumper in the field and is in sensational form of late. Grant Young’s Tunes is set to start in his 118th race start on Saturday and the ten-year-old warhorse is starting to put together quite a handy jumps record with two wins and two seconds from eight starts.
With good rides for both sides in each race, on paper it looks like either side could claim this year’s Challenge but with three year’s between drinks at Morphettville for the Australian team, you can be sure that they’ll be putting their best foot forward come Saturday.
Later in the day, the running of the Listed Penny Edition Stakes will take place; a race that has been won by some of Australia’s finest horses including Fields of Omagh, Alcopop, Southern Speed and Gailo Chop.
A full field is set to take on this year’s race with two local emergencies hoping to gain a start on Saturday. Patrick Payne’s impressive galloper Widgee Turf looks to be the horse to beat after his third placing in the Group 2 PB Lawrence Stakes two weeks ago but he has drawn the carpark in Gate 16 which may deter him from a start.
Darren Weir’s Japanese Stakes winning import Danon Liberty is set for his second Australian start after a poor showing in the PB Lawrence, while Harry Coffey will partner Weir’s other runner, last start winner Theanswermyfriend. The other interstate visitors will come from the Lindsay Park stable with Poetic Dream and Petrology nominated for the feature.
The South Australian chances are bountiful in the Penny Edition with plenty of talented local chances set to take on their interstate rivals. Will Clarken’s Tatoosh flew home in the Group 3 Spring Stakes earlier this month where he finished fourth, while Richard Jolly’s Hard Empire continued his fantastic form, running second in that same race behind Dollar for Dollar.
The Tony McEvoy pair of Silvera and Brown Ben will be in the race for a long way, while Exalted Adam and Arkham Knight are others in good form who could give the race a big shake.