WIN NETWORK SHOWCASE MAIDEN PLATE Tips (Race 1)
Ballina Best Bet - Race 1 No. 9 Koonunga Hill
The gap between runs is the main concern for this three-year-old, but given he was buffeted numerous times via his last attempt at Ipswich, trainer Kacey Fogden has elected to give him a little freshen-up and only dropping 100m for this attempt, I'll bank that the fitness base is there.
By Exceed And Excel and out of a Group One winning mare in Star Shiraz, Koonunga has been unlucky not have broken through in six starts and finally getting out past the sprint trips on November 25, nothing went right, where he was firstly held-up before the run home in a changing affair before being badly inconvenienced by the eventual quinella in the home straight.
The runner-up from that contest has franked the form by winning a city Maiden while the tenacity shown from this gelding, in picking himself up again to charge home late was quite admirable under the circumstances and this Friday's event does appear a little easier.
KOELLNER STEEL CLASS 2 SHOWCASE HANDICAP Tips (Race 6)
Ballina Value Bet - Race 6 No. 1 Baileys
This ex-Victorian had some reasonable early form lines and although he never quite measured up down south, the son of Fastnet Rock is turning out to be a handy pick-up for the Graham Payne stable with five competitive showings for the new yard, including a win at Scone back in August.
Following two sound efforts via a Newcastle Provincial race prior to a midfield finish in the Grafton Guineas, he managed to roll the John Sargent-trained Holy Sunday, a useful galloper that won two of his next four outings and is rated above anything in this Class 2 line-up.
Baileys just peaked late on the run when resuming this campaign with a second to Dashing 'N' Daring who franked that form with an even bigger win on January 7 and with the 1.5kg claim of Jaden Lloyd, he drops in the weights for a weaker affair, so is well placed.
SLIPWAY HOTEL 2021 BALLINA CUP Tips (Race 7)
Ballina Cup Tip - Race 7 No. 2 Sea Raider
A rather competitive market has gone up for the 2021 Ballina Cup and the deserving favourite is this four-year-old who is both the class galloper of the field and with just the 16 starts to his name, has as much upside as any of his opposition.
After a good start to the preparation which included a first-up victory at the Gold Coast over 900m, Sea Raider was seemingly just plodding along for a little while with the step up to 1400m on December 16 being the catalyst for a return to form, when holding off Bryneich (won his next start) in the run to the line.
Carrying 60kg over a testing seven furlongs at Eagle Farm last start, he shouldn't have lost any fans as the only on-pace runner to stay on in that race and with a 2kg drop in the weights, does look the one to beat in the $65,000 feature, providing jockey Luke Rolls can find a spot early from a slightly sticky gate.
THE TURSA DART BENCHMARK 66 HANDICAP Tips (Race 8)
Ballina Roughie - Race 8 No. 5 San Sierra
In a very open five-furlong dash to end this Friday's Ballina program, I'm willing to give this veteran some hope at the huge odds-on offer following a forgivable third-up performance on January 3 where he blew the start and a consequence, effectively didn't compete.
Excuses were offered in the post-race, however, which related to the tongue-tie that was added prior to that attempt and with both the trainer and jockey agreeing that this eight-year-old resented it, they've now taken it off and in another positive, trainer Leo Clapham has put back on a senior hoop.
San Sierra was only third-up on that occasion and had placed via both of his prior efforts in November, so he wasn't in bad touch and in this field that looks to have plenty of early speed on paper, this gelding can chime in with a tow into it late.