First-time Scone Cup team Bobbing and trainer Bernie Kelly won't be able to compare, but Scone Race Club chief executive officer Heath Courtney knows the major Upper Hunter event will take on a much different complexion this year.
Kelly, who relocated to Scone from Hawkesbury around 12 months ago, has entered the 2019 Provincial Championships winner in a high-quality field for Friday's listed mile race worth $160,000.
However, because of coronavirus restrictions, the normally well-attended meeting won't feature any crowds and the two-day carnival has been halved with Saturday's card transfered to Sydney track Rosehill.
Courtney has described it as an "eerie feeling" this week and while disappointed not to be welcoming up to 15,000 people through the gates he acknowledged how "fortunate" they were to still be overseeing the annual affair.
"It's a bit of an eerie feeling," Courtney told the Newcastle Herald.
"There's nomally a lot of hustle and bustle going on here this week in the lead up to the event, but that's not the case at the moment.
"But we're fortunate we're still going and we've got some high quality races to look forward to."
Courtney also said "it's exciting to have a local horse [Bobbing] in the Scone Cup taking on the predominately Sydney-trained runners".
Kelly said six-year-old gelding Bobbing, which was sixth in the Tamworth Cup (1400m) on April 26 and 14th in the Country Championships final at Randwick on April 4, "wasn't going backwards" this preparation.
Also in the Scone Cup, Newcastle trainer Kris Lees has the three topweights for Australian Bloodstock-owned syndicates with Sixties Groove, Big Duke and Chief Ironside. Hunter jockeys Andrew Gibbons, Robert Thompson and Samantha Clenton have the respective rides.
Fellow Novocastrian trainers with Scone Cup runners include Rodney Ollerton with Royal Tudor and Paul Perry with The Getaway. Archedemus, prepared by Joseph Price, was the TAB fixed odds favourite paying $4.40 on Wednesday night.
Saturday sees Newcastle trainer Jason Deamer welcome back Bon Amis from a 20-week spell in the listed Ortensia Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill. The six-year-old gelding is the topweight, has drawn barrier two and will have jockey Hugh Bowman on board.
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