This year's Newhaven Park Country Championships are off and running. Sir Ravanelli fought off a strong field of 14 runners to take the series' initial $150,000 Mid North Coast Racing Association event at Tuncurry on Sunday.
The huge trackside crowd were quick to respond when their local hero hit the front in the straight, cheering Sir Ravanelli home, much to the delight of the gelding's excited conditioner Terry Evans and connections.
Sir Ravanelli (a New Zealand-bred son of Iffraaj) defeated Taree gallopers Imatruestar (by Star Turn and trained by Grant Jobson), and last year's winner Swamp Nation (Stratum Star, Glen Milligan) for third.
The winner and runner-up are now en route to the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final at Randwick on April 1.
Northern Rivers Racing Association's series heat follows at Coffs Harbour this Saturday.
Read more: All the photos from the 164th Tumut Cup
Sir Ravanelli was ridden by Newcastle-based hoop Darryl "Digger" McLellen, who made it a winning double aboard Upside for Muswellbrook trainer Justin Bowen.
McLellan also rode Flying Artie gelding Lanks into second in the Class One Handicap sprint.
As a young horse, Lanks (by Flying Artie) was given to his Muswellbrook trainer Pat Farrell by connections of Newgate Farm, Aberdeen, after being injured as a foal.
"He (Lanks) won the Martin Maiden at Walcha at his last start, and I won the Walcha Cup with In Lock in 1969 - that's 54 years ago!" Farrell said just prior to Lanks' Tuncurry win.
"That shows that old age shouldn't worry you."
Justify takes flight
Learning To Fly continued her march to be a superstar filly when storming down the outside of the track to snatch victory in the $2 million Inglis Millennium for two-year-olds at Randwick on Saturday.
Winner of the ATC Widden Stakes-G3 at her only other start, the Annabel Neasham trained youngster asserted herself into favouritism for the $5 million Golden Slipper Stakes-G1 on March 19. Learning To Fly belongs to the first Australian crop of foals by Coolmore Stud's former shuttler Justify - a US Three-Year-Old Triple Crown winner, and son of short-lived outstanding US sire Scat Daddy.
The filly quickly repaid her purchase price of $900,000 (at last year's Australian Easter Yearling Sale) when selling from Coolmore Stud to Kia Ora Stud's Ananda Krishnan.
Restricted to Inglis yearling sale graduates only, Learning To Fly defeated I Am Invincible fillies Blanc De Blanc ($360,000 at Classic Yearling Sale), and Kundalini ($1.7 million at Easter Yearling Sale).
Interestingly, the first five across the line were fillies, with Lazzago (by Capitalist) and Facile (Trapeze Artist) fourth and fifth, respectively.
The Chris Waller-trained Lazzago picked up an extra $400,000 for the Inglis Pink Bonus (meaning the majority of its owners are women) - for being the first Pink Bonus-eligible runner home.
Vale Bob Milligan
The Mid North Coast Racing Association is mourning the death of well-known conditioner Bob Milligan who passed away aged 80 at his hometown of Taree last week.
While his final two runners (Courageous Queen and Texas Storm) to appear in his name finished unplaced, Milligan prepared 952 winners, including 326 wins at his home track, where he trained since the early 1970s.
In 2021, Milligan won the Mid North Coast Country Championship Qualifier (held at Scone) with Charmmebaby, a Charm Spirit mare which also went on to win a Taree Cup and two stakes in Brisbane.
But considered to be Milligan's best galloper was Carael Boy, a gelding (by Bluebird's Irish-bred import Free Flyer) which won 20 races and had 11 placings for almost $1 million in prizemoney through the 2000s. A cups specialist, Carael Boy's wins included eight stakes races, among them the Hawkesbury, Newcastle, Wyong and Liverpool Cups, as well as the 2001 AJC Villiers Stakes-G2.
His son Glen continues the Milligan family training success - also based at Taree.
Day one highlight
Tony Fung Investments paid the top price of $550,000 for the Written Tycoon colt (and the first foal of dual group winner Sylvia's Mother) on day one of the Inglis Classic Yearling Sale at Warwick Farm on Sunday.