Red Ochre Classic is looming once again

It is the biggest race on the Dubbo Harness Racing Club’s calendar, and now preparations are ramping up for the 2017 edition of the Red Ochre Mares Classic.

WINNER: Maudie Mombassa, driven by Michael Towers, races to victory in the 2016 edition of the Red Ochre Mares Classic. This year's race will be held on May 26.

WINNER: Maudie Mombassa, driven by Michael Towers, races to victory in the 2016 edition of the Red Ochre Mares Classic. This year's race will be held on May 26.

Last Saturday night’s program was the last before heats are held on Sunday, May 21, for the Group 3 event, as well as other finals that will be held at the club’s Carnival of Cups program five days later.

Red Ochre organiser Brett Wrigley pours a mountain of work into the race, which over the years has produced the likes of subsequent Ladyship Mile winner Our Sixpence.

“Yirribee Stud are the naming rights sponsor this year. They were part of the stallion tender that we use to fund the prizemoney for the Red Ochre,” Wrigley said.

“We had a very good response to the stallion tender this year, and we have to thank the studs that gave us services to auction off as part of it.

“We took in a little more this year than we did last year, so that helps with being able to maintain the prizemoney at the level we have it.

“This is the third year that the race will carry $30,000 in prizemoney and Group 3 status, and being able to offer that black type for these mares not only means the race is worth good money but they become valuable broodmares when they go to stud.

With a month or so remaining until the heats, Wrigley is now on the hunt for prospective mares to compete in the series.

He is hopeful of perhaps being able to attract the likes of the all-conquering Turnbull stable from Bathurst, and leading Hunter Valley trainers Shane and Lauren Tritton.

“It’s hard to get the Sydney trainers now because they race for similar money down there and don’t have to make two trips out here to race,” Wrigley said.

“A few years ago we had Luke McCarthy coming out and he had Our Sixpence win the Red Ochre, and Baby Bling also won one of the other races on the program before it went on to win a Miracle Mile.

“But I’ll get on the phone and see who has some mares of a suitable grade and try to get them here. No mare goes backwards in value winning a Group 3 so that’s a bit of a selling point for the race.

“I’m hoping Amanda Turnbull might bring What A Curtainraiser out. She’s won five on the trot and won here at her last start.

“Shane Tritton has won the race a couple of times as well and usually has a couple of mares that are suitably graded.”

The Carnival of Cups meeting will be held on the opening night of the Dubbo Show – Friday, May 26, with organisers hopeful of attracting a strong crowd.