Trainer now a Ballina raider
ALTHOUGH Les Kelly left Ballina more than 12 years ago to train on the Gold Coast, he has twice plundered two of the club's feature races and he is about to try it for a third time tomorrow.
Kelly will start the former Victorian-trained two-year-old Jacaranda Avenue in the $25,000 Gem Array Jewellers Ballina Bracelet (1250m) with Tony Patillo to ride the Snitzel filly.
He won the 2004 Ballina Bracelet with Any Suggestion and she went on to win another eight races, all in the city, and ran second to Miss Andretti in the Group One Australia Stakes at Moonee Valley, beaten one-and-a-half lengths.
Kelly has also won a Ballina Cup with Bann Ruby.
The massive meeting tomorrow has attracted capacity fields in all eight races with 40 horses from Queensland stables making up almost one-third of the program.
"Expect to see a lot more of us down there with the increased prizemoney," Kelly said.
Jacaranda Avenue had run second twice at Sandown in heavy and slow going before being sent to Kelly.
She has had one start for him for a luckless second at Doomben last Saturday.
"It was a better run than either of those two seconds at Sandown," Kelly said.
"She was constantly in trouble and should have won. Her owner, Les Cowell, thought she would be better suited up here than in Melbourne and the Bracelet is a nice racefor her."
Four other Queensland trainers also think so, with Liam Birchley accepting with Harlequin's Gold, Daryl Peckett with Ain't She Sweet, Patinack Farm's John Thompson with last-start Eagle Farm winner Aronson and Bryan Dais with Gallinari.
However, Birchley is unsure whether Harlequin's Gold, which took on older horses and easily beat them in a maiden at Grafton last week, will start.
He is worried by barrier 16.
This meeting has not only attracted horses from some of Queensland's leading stables but also some of its leading riders.
The state's leading apprentice, Timothy Bell, has five rides including Casino Card in the Bracelet while leading jockey Jason Taylor also has five.
Then there is Taree apprentice Matthew McGuren, who is fast establishing himself as one of the best riders in this state.
He has easily won the statewide Rising Star Series for apprentices with 88 points, well clear of the second-placed Blake Spriggs on 69 points.
Even though the final is yet to be run - it's at Hawkesbury on Sunday - he has the title well and truly in his keeping.
McGuren has four rides and has been booked by Patinack Farm for Aronson in the Bracelet.