The $1 million The Hunter meeting holds special significance for syndicators Australian Bloodstock, which has three runners in the feature race.
Held for the first time last year, The Hunter has quickly become one of the coveted local majors, along with the Newmarket, Cameron Handicap and Newcastle Cup.
Having grown up in the regional centre, which is famous for its coal but has become more cosmopolitan in recent years, Australian Bloodstock director Jamie Lovett is thrilled to see the impact the new race is having on his home town.
“It’s a bit exciting,” Lovett said.
“It sits on the calendar at the right time of year. The football is over, kids’ sport is over.
“We’ve got a big ownership base here in Newcastle and a lot of them are happy to wait and have their horses run on these (big) days.”
Lovett grew up with leading local trainer Kris Lees and Australian Bloodstock entrust him with the majority of their team.
Lees prepares their trio of runners in The Hunter (1300m) – Tactical Advantage, Special Reward and Chief Ironside.
The trainer and syndicators have already enjoyed great success in Newcastle’s showpiece races and this year alone have claimed the Newmarket with Special Reward and the Cup with Mugatoo.
They had to settle for third in the Cameron Handicap with Chief Ironside but a victory in The Hunter would give them three of the four major races in Newcastle this calendar year.
“We’ve won the Newmarket, the Newcastle Cup. In the Cameron, we’ve come second twice so we need to win it,” Lovett said.
“This is now a race where, we ran second in it the first year, so it’s obviously going to be high on our priority list going forward.”
Lovett and fellow director Luke Murrell built their business on importing European stayers but have expanded to purchasing tried local horses and dabbling at the yearling sales.
Of their Hunter runners, last year’s runner-up Tactical Advantage and Special Reward were bought as tried horses and both have won stakes races, while Chief Ironside was sourced from England and is a Group Two winner.
Lovett says all three have the talent to win on Saturday if they can find their best form.
“The three going into the race, to be fair, are probably going in off last-start performances that don’t give you a lot of confidence,” Lovett said.
“But on their day, they’re all up to a race like this.”