Robbie Morris admitted he was pretty close to being “down and out” leading into Sunday evening’s Kent’s H Hardware Banjo Paterson Cup (1609 metres), the main event of Orange Harness Racing Club’s Carnival of Cups showcase at Towac Park.
No wonder, the Menangle-based driver hadn’t finished any better than fifth leading into the $14,280 feature and he’d actually run last in the first and second of the afternoon.
Morris bounced back in a big way though, lifting himself out of the doldrums with a rousing victory on board Smokey Quartz in the Banjo Paterson Cup and backing that up immediately by steering Ballachulish to a win in the meeting’s final race.
Starting from the second row as a $3.10 favourite in the main event, Morris ultimately went on to win by a comfortable margin of almost three metres from 2017 champion Parramatta ($4.20) with a mile rate of 1.55.2, Steve Turnbull’s $26 outsider Modern Maestro was another four metres back in third.
“I’d had a pretty ordinary afternoon before [the Banjo Paterson Cup], I was feeling pretty down and out, it’s amazing what one win can do for you,” Morris laughed, moments after bringing KerryAnn Turner’s gelding back to the stables.
The market had Smokey Quartz as the front-runner thanks largely to a strong run to third at Menangle a week prior to Sunday’s victory, although Morris said he still considered the Courage Under Fire x Pareen gelding one of several chances considering the field.
“He’s a nice horse, his run at Menangle was very good and that’s his [23rd] win now. He’s no star but he’s done an awesome job for what he is,” Morris said, the victory was also Smokey Quartz’s third of the season.
“You’re never too confident coming into these races because the Turnbulls always come up with three or four nice ones and Bernie (Hewitt’s) mare Royal Story goes really good.
“There was a few there off the front line that probably went a bit too hard, which probably played into mine and Amanda [Turnbull’s] hands and from the draw it worked out well because we weren’t in it.”
Morris fed on the momentum from that win in the next, the TAB.com.au Pace (1609m), and piloted $1.45 favourite Ballachulish to a comfortable victory to close out the meeting superbly.
Driving for Turner once more, Morris steered the lightly-raced gelding to a 1.6-metre victory from Kasey Hocking’s Needitwantitdoit ($41), with Josh Turnbull’s Spooky Dreams ($10) was three metres further back.
Morris also praised the Towac Park curators. Although he did say the unique, grass track was in better nick in 2018, but considering the recent conditions that was to be expected.
“It’s got enough grass on it but it was sort of bumpy because it doesn’t have the grass on it that it did last year so I will say it was better last year, but we had much better weather leading in last year too,” he said.
“We’ve had terrible weather all through NSW with the drought, so you can’t expect it to be any better than what it was.
I was feeling pretty down and out, it’s amazing what one win can do for you.Robbie Morris
“I think it’s a great concept and most of the horses get around it pretty good. You have your ups and your downs, but it’s a good spectacle and the Orange club should be very happy with their efforts because they’re bringing people back to the races and it’s a good feel.”
He also said if all goes to plan he will return in 2020 to try and defend the crown.
“If you’d asked me [before the Banjo Paterson Cup] I’d have probably said no,” Morris laughed.
“If we’ve got a team that suits, definitely.”
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