Trainer Terry McCarthy and local horse Lifebuoy, which is set to run the Ramornie Handicap today.
Trainer Terry McCarthy and local horse Lifebuoy, which is set to run the Ramornie Handicap today.

Lifebuoy set to sink favourites

THE ODDS are stacked against them but Terry McCarthy and Lifebuoy are set to sink the favourites in the Listed Ramornie Handicap (1200m) at Clarence River Jockey Club today.

Not since Bill Pholi prepared Planet Man to win the 1985 Ramornie has a galloper from Casino, Ballina or Lismore saluted in the nation’s most prestigious country sprint, and bookies are confident the drought will continue after installing Lifebuoy as a $34 outsider.

But for those who love an omen, Lifebuoy might be the pick.

Two years ago, to the day, Sky Racing analyst Gary Kleise was driving home from the Grafton carnival when he fielded a phone call.

On the other end of the line was prominent Queensland breeder Joe Russo.

Mr Russo had a two-year-old out of his mare Lokesa that he wanted to start out in a small stable on the Northern Rivers with an eye to Queensland racing where it was eligible for bonuses.

And he sought Kleise’s advice.

A stalwart of Northern Rivers racing, Kleise knew that McCarthy was the right man, and on his recommendation the unnamed two-year-old was floated to McCarthy’s Ballina stable.

That horse became Lifebuoy – now a winner of six races, including one in Brisbane, and more than $135,000 in prize money.

But today he shoots for his greatest victory.

And while the bookies have all-but written him off, Lifebuoy might just take a few people by surprise.

His form doesn’t read like a world-beater after finishing fifth of 16 at Caloundra last start but scratch the surface and he becomes more appealing.

Aside from the fact that he was resuming after a seven-week let-up at that run, Lifebuoy, you could say, was a tragedy beaten.

Knocked down multiple times in the run, he flew home to be beaten by just three lengths prompting jockey Shane Scriven to admit to McCarthy that he should have won.

And in three starts prior to that he was a winner on the Gold Coast, second at the same track, and second in an open class race in Brisbane.

“That’s good form,” McCarthy enforced.

But the horse hasn’t had the ideal preparation, and clearly the Ramornie is a different beast.

The recent rain that has descended on Ballina and surrounds has made it hard to get much galloping into Lifebuoy.

And while the horse likes to get back in the run and save his best for last, recent history shows that Grafton, and particularly the Ramornie, has become a leader’s affair.

But don’t be surprised if this son of Easy Rocking looms late and steals a huge victory for McCarthy and Russo.

Lifebuoy’s full-brother Lifeboat contests the Sir James Kirby Handicap (1000m) tomorrow.



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