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‘Raiders’ head south

Wednesday, 14th December, 2011

INTERSTATE DASH: Trainer Darren McInnes (left) with niece Jess Benton (4) and Just Keep Safe along with Gary Hocking, Ella Benton (5) and new stable recruit Raider Robin. INTERSTATE DASH: Trainer Darren McInnes (left) with niece Jess Benton (4) and Just Keep Safe along with Gary Hocking, Ella Benton (5) and new stable recruit Raider Robin.

 By John Casey

The BH pacing season will burst into action with a special New Years Eve meeting in just over two weeks and a number of trainers will hit the ground running after campaigning their horses at Mildura tonight.

Rob Wayman, Tony Camilleri and Darren McInnes will all have runners in Mildura, along with former local Frank Mercieca who is now based in the Victorian river city.

McInnes will take a two-horse team to Mildura looking to continue what has already been a successful start to his new campaign.

Recent stable acquisition Raider Robin saluted the judge at Port Pirie three weeks ago, maintaining Darren’s happy knack of producing first-up winners.

“We thought she would run well and to come away with first prizemoney ($2023) was terrific,” an enthusiastic McInnes said.

“I have had a couple of placings at Port Pirie in the past, but that was my first victory there as a trainer.”

Raider Robin’s winning performance in SA is a credit to Darren’s training ability as she is a nine-year-old mare who had previously won only three times from 51 starts.

He produced her first up after a nine-month spell to win by more than three metres, running 2:01.6 for the 1609m journey.

Tonight at Mildura Raider Robin steps up to the 2190m trip in the $5000 Bluescope Distribution Pace, but drawing the outside (barrier six) of the front row hasn’t helped her chances.

Darren’s other runner, the lightly-raced Just Keep Safe, suffered a similar fate when the barrier draw was conducted and will also start from the outside of the front row.

In the same race, Tony Camilleri’s Bubble Wrap drew the inside of the second row (barrier seven) while fellow BH trainer Rob Wayman fared better with his four-year-old Montana Madge who drew favourably in barrier two in race two.

Wayman enjoyed multiple successes at Mildura with Passing Shadows in March this year and said yesterday that using the good draw and getting to the front would be the key to Montana Madge’s chances of winning.

McInnes has also had success at Mildura in the past and if Raider Robin can win back-to-back races for the first time in her career it will continue what is already a remarkable story.

“I actually travelled to Adelaide to pick up another horse and came home with Raider Robin as well because there was spare room in the float,” McInnes explained.

“We struck a deal to lease her and being a nine-year-old we will take it race by race to see what we do with her.”

Just Keep Safe, who joined the McInnes stable after starting his career in New Zealand, is no stranger to the Mildura track having run two minor placings there in May this year.

Prior to that the five-year-old burst on to the BH scene with a debut win - followed by a close third - before outclassing his rivals in the heats of the prestigious Club Legion Pace.

While Just Keep Safe failed to figure in the finish of the Club Legion Final, winning feature events has not been uncommon for McInnes, who captured three successive Sturt Club Mile events (2005-07) with grand campaigner Polo Top.

“He was a terrific horse for us and won a total of 17 races,” McInnes recalled.

“You always hope that a new horse in the stable will turn out to be as consistent as Polo Top, but we will just have to wait and see.”

As well as winning 17 races Polo Top was placed a further 33 times in his 107-start career.

McInnes was born into a horse loving family with his parents Marie and Brian involved with pony club events.

“As a youngster I grew up in Patton Street and we had stables at the back of our house,” Darren said.

His Mum Marie is a cousin of prominent BH trainer-driver Ray Slater, who has also been an influence on Darren’s career.

“My Dad Brian also helps me with the horses and Gary Hocking is another who does a lot around the stables ... without their support I wouldn’t be able to get everything done.”

After tonight’s Mildura meeting the next item on the agenda for the BH trainers will be the second round of trials at the Memorial Paceway on Saturday morning.

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