By Glenn Davis
The southerners have arrived in force for the Rockhampton winter carnival but local trainer Tom Button is hopeful of repelling the invasion in the Rockhampton Cup on Saturday.
Button and fellow trainers Jarred Wehlow, Kevin Hansen and Tony McMahon are the only locals in the 16-horse feature which has attracted southern big runs, Tony Gollan, David Vandyke, Liam Birchley, Steve Tregea and the new training partnership of Chris Anderson and Rob Heathcote.
Button will saddle up new stable acquisition Astoria, who drew barrier eight.
Astoria, a Justin Stanley mount, is having his first start for Button who has won the past three Rockhampton trainers’ premierships.
Button has a big team engaged over the two-day carnival which kicks off with Friday’s Newmarket Handicap meeting.
Button is chasing the lucrative $10,000 prize for the leading trainers during the “Rocky” carnival.
Astoria is owned by Jim Pakis who gave the four-year-old to Beaudesert’s Di Murphy to train after he was purchased for $140,000.
Pakis has had a lot of success with Murphy who also prepared another ex-Godolphin, Peacock, who is chasing back-to-back wins in the Newmarket Handicap.
Astoria had his last run for Brown when he produced an eye-catching second to Man Booker in the Listed Eye Liner Stakes at Ipswich on June 15.
It was only his second run this campaign following his first-up sixth to Redouble in the Listed Spear Chief Handicap (1350m) at Doomben.
Button has never won the Rockhampton Cup but it’s a race he desperately wants to win.
“I’ve only had two tries at it the last two years with Deconstructed and I would really like to win it,” Button said.
“I’ve only had Astoria for a couple of weeks but he’s a lovely big horse.
“I got both of them from Jack Pakis who is an old friend of mine and they’re both aiming for the Northern Crown races.
“They’ll both go to Mackay next week then it’s on to Townsville and Cairns for the sprinters’ and stayers’ races.”
Button has overlooked Peacock’s stable debut when he tailed off behind Drumbeat’s Choice at Callaghan Park on June 21.
“Peacock’s run didn’t go to plan and he was caught three deep outsiders the leaders,” he said.
“He’s made a big improvement since then and should be hard to beat.”
Racing Queensland webnews July 5