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Port Macquarie Racing Preview Thursday December 1

Cessnock trainer John Bannister hopes his well-bred gelding Sugar Rock can give apprentice Marnie Toms a well-deserved first winner when he returns off a two-year layoff at Port Macquarie on Thursday.

Port Macquarie Racing Preview Thursday December 1

Cessnock trainer John Bannister hopes his well-bred gelding Sugar Rock can give apprentice Marnie Toms a well-deserved first winner when he returns off a two-year layoff at Port Macquarie on Thursday.

By Fastnest Rock out of the Success Express mare Speaker, Sugar Rock has been sidelined for more than two years with leg problems. He makes his return in Thursday's Schweppes Class 1 Hcp (1110m) with the topweight of 63kg but Toms will claim 4kg.

Now a six-year-old, Sugar Rock was previousy trained by David Pfieffer when he had his only two starts back in 2014, winning on debut at Kembla Grange on July 15 then finishing unplaced at Wyong a fortnight later.


He was subsequently purchased by Lee Balmer of Three Minute Lodge in November last year before joining Bannister's stable.

"He's been off the scene so long because of ongoing leg problems, mainly ligament troubles" said Bannister. "He's had a good, long break and he's been in work with me for about three months now.

"He's a beautiful horse who can hopefully win some races for us if he stays sound. I'm hoping he can win a couple of races and we can then have a crack at next year's Country Championships."

Bannister said Toms, who is apprenticed to Newcastle trainer Ken Lantry, and horsebreaker Luke Thomas had put in a lot of time with Sugar Rock and deserved a lot of the credit for his return to racing.

"Marnie and Luke have both put in a lot of work with Sugar Rock," said Bannister. "Marnie's been riding him in all his work for about two months now and also does a lot of hill work with him.

"I hope Sugar Rock Horseform can give Marnie her first winner on Thursday because she deserves it.

"He trialled well at Cessnock the other week and on his work I think he'll be very hard to beat."

Sugar Rock has had two 900m trials at Cessnock in preparation for Thursday's comeback, the latest on November 18 when he beat She's A Bop Girl and Gendebien.

The Paul Perry-trained Gendebien also runs at Port Macquarie on Thursday and looks the one to beat in the Carlton Mid Benchmark 70 Hcp (1010m).

Bowraville-based trainer Terry Walshe, who trains rival Ebony Rein, certainly thinks so and has all but conceded the race to Gendebien.

Gendebien is resuming since July after racing well without winning in a number of Sydney starts on soft ground during the winter. His last run before a spell was a two-length third to Big Arty in a Benchmark 67 Hcp at Warwick Farm on July 13.

Ebony Rein, winner of seven of her 31 starts, has drawn the inside gate and will benefit from apprentice Eric Cheung's 3kg claim, but Walshe doubts his six-year-old mare can win.

"My mare should race well, but that horse of Paul Perry's looks way too good for us," Walshe said. "He's a city-class horse and looks the winner to me."

The rail for the seven-race Port Macquarie meeting will be out 5 metres the entire circuit and the track is currently rated a good 4.

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