At Grafton on the NSW North Coast, triple Gr1-winning stallion Husson (Hussonet-Villa Elisa, by Roy) added a black-type success when 7YO Australian-bred gelding First Crush (Husson-Loving New, by Choctaw Ridge) opened his stakes account with a strong win in the $160,000 Listed Grafton Cup (2350m) for 3YO+, defeating Winkler & Reneged. Owned by well-known racing identity Max Whitby and purchased for $100,000 at the 2014 Magic Millions Patinack Farm Dispersal, First Crush improved his record to 7 wins and 14 placings (including the Listed Ipswich Cup & Listed Caloundra Cup) from 34 starts for $354,050 in earnings. "I told Max that I would win the Grafton Cup for him. I had little plan for the horse and I'm glad it's come off today," trainer Chris Munce told Sky Racing. Munce, who won the Grafton Cup aboard Count Scenario in 1999 and Storm Hill in 2005, joined Maurice McCarten as just the second person to win a Grafton Cup as a jockey and a trainer. "It's a lot of hard work but its not just about me," Munce said, "its also about my staff who work tirelessly."
The $160,000 Listed Grafton Cup (2350m) to be run at Grafton on the NSW North Coast today has attracted a capacity field of 16 runners plus four emergencies. The favourite for the 2018 edition of the race is the Chris Munce-trained First Crush ($3.80 fixed odds with TAB) who is coming off an excellent second to talented Kiwi stayer Megablast in the Listed Caloundra Cup (2400m) on the Sunshine Coast. Next in the market is John Thompson-trained Reneged at $4.80, ahead of Jumbo Prince at $6 and Montauk and Anton En Avant both at $7. The Grafton Cup will be run at 4:05pm AEST.
At the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, deceased Gr1-winning stallion Shinko King (Fairy King-Rose Of Jericho, by Alleged) added a stakes race success when 6YO New Zealand-bred gelding Megablast (Shinko King-Thirst, by Desert Sun) relished the soft conditions underfoot to bound clear for a comprehensive win in the $175,000 Listed Caloundra Cup (2400m) for 3YO+, defeating First Crush & Tradesman. Megablast, who was passed in for $17,500 at the 2013 NZ Bloodstock Ready To Run Sale, improved his record to 10 wins (including the Gr2 Easter Handicap) and 7 placings (including the Gr2 PJ O'Shea Stakes & Gr2 Avondale Cup) from 31 starts for NZ$383,363 in earnings. Trainer Nigel Tiley said Megablast may head to the Group 2 Queen's Cup (3200m) at the Sunshine Coast in two weeks.
At Ipswich in south east Queensland, deceased Gr3-winning stallion Trade Fair (Zafonic-Danefair, by Danehill) added a black-type success when 7YO Australian-bred gelding Tradesman (Trade Fair-Virelay, by Laranto) was forced to race three wide without cover before fighting on strongly in the straight to score a narrow win in the $175,000 Listed Ipswich Cup (2150m) for 3YO+, defeating First Crush & All In Vogue. This was the second career stakes win for Tradesman who improved his record to 9 wins (including the Listed Belmont Guineas) and 6 placings (including the Gr2 Perth Cup & Gr3 Northerly Stakes) from 27 starts for $666,150 in earnings. Tradesman was purchased by Todd Harvey for $57,500 at the 2013 Magic Millions Perth Yearling Sale from the draft of Toreby Park. Trainer Darren Weir commented: "He'll go on to the Caloundra Cup now and I might even take him to Grafton for the Cup there," said Weir. "I've had a few runners at Ipswich over the years but the Ipswich Cup is my first win there."