Morgan Out After James McDonald In Title Chase (Taree, Monday 9th May)

The latest jockey to post a century of winners, Ashley Morgan, has ambitions to make inroads on premier Sydney jockey James McDonald’s 111 wins so far this season with some good mounts at Manning Valley Race Club’s eight-race extended meeting at Taree on Monday.

With over two months left in the season, Morgan believes he has a hope of leading the tally, last done by regular Taree jockey Andrew Gibbons who topped the 2018/19 winning rides with 137.

Morgan’s magical 100 was set on Gus Lightning at Grafton last Friday but since he has added two wins to his tally at Gunnedah on Monday to be nine behind McDonald.

Morgan, aged 31, joins country century jockeys Grant Buckley, Aaron Bullock, Port Macquarie’s Ben Looker and Gibbons who often ride at Taree to post their centuries in past seasons.

Bullock this season is on 61 wins after missing several months early in the season and is riding at Muswellbrook on Monday, whereas apprentice jockey Dylan Gibbons shows promise to achieve the century this season in being on 83 wins.

It shows that country riding ranks are standing in good stead and patrons are blessed to have such talent engaged on their gallopers.

“My ambition was to ride 100 this season but now I would like to finish in front of McDonald ,” Morgan said. He has come a long way since leaving England nearly four years ago to re-invent his career, much to the delight of his partner Kara and two-year-old daughter, River.

“The Mid North Coast is a strong area for top jockeys and I have gained the support of many trainers in the area and elsewhere. I travel tens of thousands of kilometres in the country chasing rides.”

He and Buckley have mounts in the same races at Taree, one of them being the feature Saxby’s Soft Drinks Benchmark 66 Handicap over 1412m. Morgan is on seven-year-old gelding Ambitious Prince, trained at Coffs Harbour by Warren Gavenlock.

The horse has won at the track and distance and should be fitter than when sixth when resuming from a spell over 1200m in soft ground at Port Macquarie on April 10.

Buckley’s six-year-old gelding Salsa Man, trained at Newcastle by Paul Perry, won over 1600m at Tamworth and has been freshened since with a seventh over 1600m in heavy ground at Wyong on April 14.

In the Zulu Club Class 1 Handicap over 1257m Buckley’s filly Harmony Halo, another from the Perry stable, won at Scone over 1100m and was then sixth at Gosford.

Morgan’s Yorikiri won for Perry over 1506m at Port whereas L’Esperance for Buckley from the Wyong stable of Allan Denham was sixth at Muswellbrook over 1600m in the XXXX Gold Class 1 @ Maiden Plate over 1614m.

Denham’s Threetimeslucky was a good third to Jesta Coco last Monday at Taree and may prove strongest in the De Bortoli Wines Maiden Plate over 1257m. Morgan’s filly Maslina, trained at Wyong by Jeff Englebrecht is favoured to go one better than second last start at Muswellbrook and win the TAB.Com.Au Maiden 1412m.

So far Morgan, Buckley, Looker, Dylan Gibbons and Bullock have won a total of nearly $10,307,000 in prizemoney and there should be much more to come. Knocking on the door for a win is Taree three-year-old Persian Beauty, trained by Ross Stitt, in the Iron Jack Benchmark 58 Handicap over 1614m.

The horse’s two wins have been at Taree, firstly scoring over 1300m in the heavy on November 29 and then over 1600m on a good track on December 19. The 3yo filly showed it could be back in good form with a second over 1506m in heavy ground at Port on April 24.

– Racing NSW

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