Green Machine: Cleary has Raider Eightyeight aimed at Highway appearance

A Canberra Raiders-loving Queanbeyan trainer with a renowned turf name up against a long-time Canberra trainer now based in NSW.

That’s the recipe as two lightly raced rivals get set for a three-year-old showdown in the opening race at Thursday’s feature Goulburn meeting.

Queanbeyan trainer Joe Cleary.Credit:Andrew Johnston

Raider Eightyeight, a gelded son of Better Than Ready and trained by “Green Machine” devotee Joe Cleary, lines up for his fourth start second-up in a Maiden Plate over 1300m.

Named after three-time premiership winner Laurie Daley from the Raiders’ glory days, Raider Eightyeight returned for his first run since mid-October and hit the line hard in a Maiden at Canberra 13 days ago.

Drawn wider this time, he is likely to settle further back before unleashing the customary finish he has shown right from his debut run at Queanbeyan last spring.

Cleary is likely to target an early autumn Highway sprint in Sydney if Raider Eightyeight takes care of this field.

But drawn much further in, promising Sebring filly Bella Dolce reloads for the home track Matthew Dale stable, 24 days after being comfortably beaten into third place on debut at this track as a pronounced favourite.

From a softer draw, and carrying 1kg less for new jockey Jeff Penza, Bella Dolce is also well-placed to open her account over 100m further.

A long-time leading trainer over the border, Dale took a financial decision to ditch Canberra late last year, and set up at nearby Goulburn, naturally giving him greater access to NSW prizemoney.

Like several trainers around the region, he also maintains a satellite training base on the NSW South Coast.

Meanwhile, two likely hot favourites are out to take the next step towards bigger targets in consecutive races at Goulburn.

Talented four-year-old I Am The Empire, a son of English and Irish derby winner Camelot, looks set to score fourth-up for Warwick Farm-based trainer Annabel Neasham in a Class 1 & Maiden Plate at set weights over 2140m.

Then in the next, the local Danny Williams stable resumes smart Your Song three-year-old Atmospheric Rock in a modest Class 1 Hcp over 1200m.

Bred to handle all ground, Atmospheric Rock won on debut here back in late October before twice charging home into a close second up to much tougher Class 3 Highway grade.

Returning off a quiet trial, he almost looks over the line in this race and will be set for bigger prizes in early autumn.

Supplied by Racing NSW
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