TWEED River Jockey Club secretary-manager Rachael Elliott couldn't be happier with the response from connections keen to race their thoroughbreds at Murwillumbah's Tuesday TAB meeting.
"We've had 168 horses nominate for what were originally seven scheduled races," she said.
"But Racing New South Wales added another event so we could accommodate as many as possible.
"Things couldn't be better. When you look at the recent weather, and the track has dried out to a good two rating, which I'm advised hasn't been seen around these parts for quite a while.
"If you consider Ipswich is racing with 73 acceptances, you realise we're pretty popular at the moment, what with increased prizemoney and our handy location."
The feature event is race five, the IGA Murwillumbah Benchmark 50 Handicap over 1530m, due at 2.57pm.
Top weight Sir Esmond is trained on track and deserves some respect here.
His run in the $28,250 Casella Wines Murwillumbah Cup (2000m) a few starts ago was gutsier than appeared on paper.
Though ninth in a field of 12, he ran out the journey and was only six lengths behind winner Castlemagne King, in a race worth roughly twice the prizemoney of Tuesday's main event.
His trainer Thea Taylor is realistic about his chances, noting Sir Esmond's six-week absence from competitive racing and it being a pretty hard race.
"He's going all right, and he'll try his heart out, as he always does, but there are some really good horses in this race," Taylor said.
O'Reilly's Gold, from the Maryanne Brosnan stable at the Gold Coast, will be hard to beat.
He went down by less than half a length in a near identical race, the Imperial Hotel Cup, here a fortnight ago.
He might not have had the best of luck in running, and after hitting the front early was collared only in the shadows of the post.
O'Reilly's Gold is racing consistently and will be worth watching, together with last-start winners Rock To Paradise and Prior Warning.
If emergencies Mograni and Frisco Rain get in they will come into calculations on the back of last-start winning runs.
Full TAB facilities and a strong bookmakers' ring will be operating on-course, with the first to jump at 12.37pm.
Gates open at 11.30am.
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