Agnew Takes A Shot At Country Championships With Dark Horse Binkou

It’s not lost on Robert Agnew how significant it would be for his growing stable if Binkou could book a place in the $1 million Newhaven Park Country Championships Final.

The four-year-old, who cost just $15,000, represents one sixth of the horses Agnew has in work at present, from a total of 15 on his books.

Trainer Robert Agnew (Pic: Robbie Agnew Racing).

But the Port Macquarie trainer feels given the potential for trying conditions at Tuncurry on Saturday he could have the dark horse of the $150,000 Newhaven Park Mid North Coast Country Championships (1400m).

Agnew, 40, is a former jockey who took up training about five years ago when, while recovering from a broken wrist started thinking about his future when dual licenses were introduced.

He says he’s loving the switch and is in awe of what the Country Championships is doing for country racing.

“I enjoy training, it’s refreshing,’’ Agnew said.

“My whole life I wanted to be a jockey but the change at this time in my life, it’s fallen into place perfectly.”

Since moving into Jenny Graham’s former stables at Port Macquarie, Agnew has struck up a working relationship with neighbouring trainer Marc Quinn and they’ll be rivals as Quinn’s Agirlsbestfriend is also headed for Tuncurry.

While training his own horses, Agnew also rides some work for Quinn and says the stable move has been huge from a knowledge perspective.

“I do a fair bit of riding for Marc, we sort of bounce off each other. It’s nearly a partnership,’’ he said.

“As much as he needed me when he broke his collarbone I learned a lot by seeing how he operates and I think I’ve taken the next step as a trainer just by being around him.

“Binkou definitely has the attributes to stay but at the same time last prep he was beaten half a length over 1415m to Agirlsbestfriend who is probably going to be the third favourite.

“He’ll probably be forgotten about a bit because he hasn’t won in a while with the Sydney prep last time.”

Tuncurry was the scene of Agnew’s last race ride, back in May 2020, and when he takes Binkou there on Saturday he hopes the result is a little better.

Binkou showed Agnew he was on target when he ran a closing third under 61.5kg first-up over 1175m at Grafton a month ago.

Since then it’s not necessarily been smooth sailing to get the gelding into the race, having missed a planned run at Taree a couple of weeks ago, but he knows the horse has depth when it comes to stamina.

“I would have ideally liked a run in between, he’s four weeks between runs going into a tough 1400m so he’s going to have to be good,’’ he said.

“He’s won at 1350m second-up before on a heavy 10, admittedly that’s a maiden. He’s working well and he’s more than capable.

“It was a good run (first-up), he tried hard but with the big weight he couldn’t catch the other ones.

“He was in at Taree but that was washed out and I thought I’d give him a barrier trial last week and they got washed out as well.

“Port Macquarie Race Club opened up the track for me and I gave him a gallop and he went great. I’ve done as much as I can but we’re all in the same boat.

“Things haven’t fallen into place but I’m not going there thinking I’m no hope because we haven’t had that run.

“If he can settle midfield and travel I’d expect him to be in the finish.”

Raymond Spokes has been booked to ride Binkou on Saturday and as confident as Agnew is that he can be competitive he has a healthy respect for the horses he sees as the likely favourites in That’s Molly, Bantarki and Agirlsbestfriend.

If the track is wet as expected he said his chances of making it to Randwick will soar as he can see negatives for those rivals.

“When I look at the form of the race, Bantarki is one of the main dangers but will it run a strong 1400m on a heavy,’’ he said.

“It works in my favour if I can beat a horse like him. That’s Molly has had three barrier trials and is first-up at 1400m.

“There’s a lot of nice horses in that race I’ve got to beat but I feel like he’s going better than last prep. If everything goes right and he won I won’t be shocked.

“I’m going there pretty confident. Do I give myself a chance this weekend? One hundred per cent.

“Do I give myself a chance in the Final? It’d want to be a heavy 10 for him to be sharper than the better horses over the 1400m that long into his prep.”

– Racing NSW

Share this article