One of the biggest events on the local racing calendar returns on Friday with the staging of 2017 Cessnock Leagues Club Jungle Juice Cup.
The Newcastle Jockey Club received 14 nominations for the $35,000 event which was first run in 1981. The final field will be declared on Wednesday morning.
Cessnock’s Hall of Fame jockey Robert Thompson and the towns leading trainer Jeremy Sylvester have made the famous Jungle Juice Cup their own over the years.
The pair have combined to win the race six times in its thirty six year history with Justifiably Proud (1988), Desalante (1989), Mighty Rimu (1993) and Youthful King (2012, 2013 and 2014).
Thompson has won five other Jungle Juice Cups aboard Top Hat Joe (1982), Action Time (1985), Barzoon (1986), Beaucastel (1994) and General’s Snipper (2017).
Sylvester has won eight cups with Pre Record ridden by Harry Troy in 1992 and the 2011 edition with Youthful King with Alison Threadwell in the saddle - his two winners not piloted by Thompson.
There is a very strong Cessnock contingent among the 2017 nominations.
Thirty-four year old local trainer Dean Jackson has rejuvenated his mare Annandale Lass which will be one of the strong fancies on Friday.
The mare started her career in South Australia before moving to Cranbourne in Victoria.
Cessnock trainer Graham Payne bought Annandale Lass in 2015 and he won four races with her before she returned to South Australia.
Jackson’s brother Brett bought Annandale Lass for $6000 earlier this year and she has been a bargain buy. From 14 starts for the Jacksons she has won prizemoney of more than $58,000 with her recent form outstanding.
Annandale Lass won the Godolphin Tiara at Muswellbrook on September 10 and last week the mare was a gallant second in the Denman Cup at Muswellbrook.
Scone based Vad Bolozkinskyi is the likely rider.
Jackson has also nominated Celtic Tiger for the Cup.
The two other Cessnock trainers with horses nominated for the Cup are Jeremy Sylvester (Three Sheets and Aomen) and Graham Payne (Exacting).
Three Sheets is raced by a group which includes new Cessnock Rugby League coach Al Lantry and finished second in the 2016 Jungle Juice Cup behind Ultima Chance.
He was narrowly beaten in the Newcastle Hurricane first up on September 16 before failing at Randwick.
Stablemate Aomen won a Saturday Benchmark 70 $60,000 race at Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in July and he hasn’t been too far away in two starts since a freshen up.
Thompson is expected to ride one of the Sylvester runners.
Former Victorian gelding Exacting has had five starts for Graham Payne. He was beaten 3½ lengths in a Randwick Highway last Saturday after a close second at Scone two starts back.
Payne trained Annandale Lass when she finished third in the 2016 Jungle Juice Cup.
Golden Slipper winning trainer Gary Portelli has nominated the 2016 Cessnock Cup winner Next Level.
The Cessnock track is in great order for the towns flagship race meeting.
A Jungle Juice Calcutta hosted by Gary Harley will be held at 7pm at the Cessnock Leagues Club on Thursday.