PROMINENT Cairns trainer Stephen Massingham is unlikely to be recognised by regular bush punters at Laura this weekend, but it’s not because he’s rarely sighted at the non-TABs.
“I’ve lost 45kg,” the once larger-than-life horseman said.
The rapid weight loss hasn’t led to a loss in ability, with the Far North’s top trainer still knocking up winners across the region, mostly at Cairns and Townsville for prominent owner Tom Hedley.
Massingham, who has been to Laura as a trainer before, said he was taking the opportunity to head bush to pick up prizemoney for some of his more experienced horses before they head to the spelling paddock.
The ultra-consistent Battle Cry will wear the famous orange silks in the Laura Cup (1450m), having finished no worse than fourth in his last six starts, which included wins at Mount Garnet and Cairns.
“He’s been really good this prep and ran a nice race the other day at Townsville,” Massingham told Cape York Weekly.
The trainer will also saddle up Endorse in the Laura 10,000 (1000m) and Rigel in the Pioneer Cup (1200m).
“Rigel will go well, I think. He found the 950m too sharp last time at Cairns,” he said.
The Tolga team of Ronnie and Janel Ryan will also bring a team of horses to Laura.
Ronnie, a former champion jockey in the Far North, says the stable is slowing down as they look to enjoy life outside of racing, but would still have a good hand at the popular bush meet.
“I love these country races because you get a good atmosphere,” he said.
“I rode a couple of Laura Cup winners and we’ve had some good success here over the years,” he said.
Janel is listed as the trainer and is likely to enter Poetic Attacks and Whitterick in Saturday’s feature race.
Laura Amateur Turf Club secretary Jenni Sorensen said the track and on-course facilities would be in excellent condition for Saturday.
“We had a working bee over the Easter long weekend where 44 volunteers worked tirelessly to get the track and surrounds ready for race day,” she said.
“We have new starting gates, with the barriers coming from the Innisfail Turf Club and refurbished with a grant from Queensland Racing.”
The first race is at 1pm.