Trainer Greg Bennett had a hand in three Melbourne Cups, Cox Plate, Golden Slipper and Magic Millions

Trainer Greg Bennett had a hand in three Melbourne Cups, Cox Plate, Golden Slipper and Magic Millions

Acknowledgement: RAY THOMAS, The Daily Telegraph

February 18, 2016 11:59am

Featured Image: Scone trainer Greg Bennett in his stables with his Country Championships contenders Invienna, Clearly Innocent. Photo courtesy of Peter Lorimer

SCONE trainer Greg Bennett’s name won’t appear in the record books but he has ridden the winners of three Melbourne Cups, Cox Plate, Golden Slipper and Magic Millions.

Bennett has never been a jockey but he was instrumental in breaking-in the legendary Makybe Diva, Ha Ha, Zephyrz and multiple Group 1 winners like Typhoon Tracy and All Silent.

“I rode them all,’’ Bennett said. “When I was breaking-in horses, I was very hands-on with the job.’’

Scone trainer Greg Bennett in his country stable complex with one his top chances in the Country Championships, All Summer Long. Picture: Peter Lorimer

Bennett, who is likely to have four starters in the $100,000 Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Scone on Sunday, was regarded as one of the best in the business when it came to breaking-in young horses and he continued in this role until a decade ago.

As his success rate as a trainer started to increase exponentially, something had to give. “For many years it was the breaking-in that was putting food on the table,’’ Bennett said.

“So, I kept juggling both for years but I found some of the horses I had broken in that were sent to Sydney and Melbourne were being returned to me when they didn’t measure up in the city.

“The suggestion was made to send them back to a country trainer and I had some luck with them.

“It began to build up from there and eventually I had to make a decision and concentrate on my training business.’’

Bennett hasn’t looked back since deciding to concentrate on his training business and is now regarded as one of the most successful trainers in NSW country racing.

“Working for yourself has some ups and downs but it is the best thing for me at the moment,’’ he continued. Bennett has 35 horses in work at Scone so it is an outstanding achievement to have four very good chances in the Country Championships. They are an eclectic bunch too – Clearly Innocent’s an untapped talent, the consistent Invienna coming off a career-worst run, the erratic but promising Chivadhalii, and the lightly-raced All Summer Long returning from injury.

“It’s a good team that we have set specifically for this series,’’ Bennett said.

“We have used the TAB Highway Handicaps in Sydney to prepare Clearly Innocent, Invienna and All Summer Long, while I’ve taken Chivadahlii along a different route but they are fit and well.’’

Bennett’s quartet are also well found in TAB Fixed Odds opening markets on the $400,000 Country Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 2 with Clearly Innocent co-favourite with Hermosa Beach at $11. All Summer Long is at $15 with Chivadhalii and Invienna are at $26.

Clearly Innocent goes into Sunday’s Scone heat after an easy win at Mudgee last start.

“He had not raced since he ran second (behind Ocean Grand) in a TAB Highway back in December but he won the Mudgee race with a minimum of fuss,’’ Bennett said.

Bennett confirmed his jockeys for the quartet – Tommy Berry rides Clearly Innocent, Blake Spriggs is on Chivadahlii, Blake Shinn partners Invienna and Samantha Clenton has picked up the mount on All Summer Long.

Chivadhalii, a winner of four of his 11 starts, ran only 10th behind Suspense at Canterbury last start but Bennett remains bullish about the four-year-old’s chances.

“This horse has a lot of natural ability but he does so many things wrong in his races,’’ Bennett said. “We have made a gear change and blinkers will go back on. His last gallop was sensational and he will appreciate the 1400m on a big track. The day he puts it all together, it will be pretty special to watch.’’

Invienna finished down the track behind All Summer Long in a TAB Highway at Randwick earlier this month. Bennett was initially at a loss to explain Invienna’s poor run given the mare had finished in the placings in 10 of her previous 11 starts, winning three.

“Although she never had a temperature or anything, we found her blood count wasn’t quite right after she ran at Randwick,’’ Bennett said. “She raced a bit flat that day which wasn’t like her because she is such a genuine mare.

“I think her run was a combination of having to do a bit of work early, she wasn’t 100 per cent happy in the going, she was second up from a spell carrying 59kg and obviously we discovered a bit of a virus.

“But the way she worked earlier this week, there is nothing wrong with her and she is on the up. She comes into the Scone heat with 54kg and I feel she is back in contention.’’

Bennett revealed All Summer Long was plagued by injury problems earlier in his career but the sprinter is sound and healthy now. “He has had two surgeries on separate fetlock joints,’’ the trainer said.

“But touch wood he is good now and he is the type that will keep improving with racing. He is lightly raced and very promising, we pegged him early in the piece for the Championships.’’