Stable back in form

RETURNED TO HIS BEST FORM: A copybook ride from apprentice Jacob Opperman enabled the Darryl Dodson trained Dr Dee Dee to regain winning form and win his ninth career race at Murray Bridge last Saturday.

By David Gilbert

AS trainers, jockeys and punters can verify, you have your good and bad runs in the racing game.

That definitely applies to Tatiara trainer Darryl Dodson as, over the years, we have seen his stable fly out of the blocks at the start of the season up until Christmas and then have a lull in the new year before firing up again.

This season has been no different for Dodson, who had three city winners up until early December and then a somewhat lean run for much of this year.

Following two winners at Bordertown on January 6, the Dodson stable had one winner in both February and March and was then out of the winner’s circle until last Sunday week at Casterton when Just Chipping Away got the chocolates.

That was followed up with a metropolitan winner at Murray Bridge last Saturday when Dr Dee Dee showed his best form for some time with a half head win in the 1600-metre BM 64 handicap.

The gelding had finished down the track at two previous runs at Oakbank and Murray Bridge and, not surprisingly, was a $16 chance last Saturday.

A copybook Jacob Opperman ride enabled Dr Dee Dee to chalk up win number nine and take his career earnings to $137,900.

That was the second leg of a double for the afternoon for Opperman who had won earlier on the $20 chance Victory Club for Murray Bridge trainer Matty Seyers.

On Wednesday, Opperman represented South Australia in the Australian apprentice’s series at Doomben and did so brilliantly when he got the favourite Fleet Dove home in the final few bounds of the class-three plate.


MILLICENT cup day at Penola this Sunday will be the biggest meeting in the Limestone Coast for at least the next six months.

It is always one of the most popular meetings on the local racing circuit and buses from Millicent, Beachport and Mount Gambier have been chartered to head to Penola.

Fashions on the field will offer more than $3000 in prizes and when nominations for the meeting closed on Tuesday, 134 entries were received for the eight-race program.

The 2100-metre Millicent Cup has attracted nominations from several country cup winners including Andrea Mantegna (Horsham Cup winner), Patch Adams (Colac, Casterton and Mount Gambier Cup), Von Costa Glass (Naracoorte Cup), Cuban Toonite (Penola Cup) and Muntham Missile (Hamilton Cup).

There will be plenty of sentiment attached to the 1400-metre BM 58 handicap which will see the inaugural running of the Ned and Nan Walker and Sue Skeer memorial.

If there are betting moves in that race for Miss Mosh, then the mare may be the best bet of the day.


LEGENDARY Adelaide jockey John Letts will be a guest of the Millicent Racing Club at Penola this Sunday, and while he may be an unknown these days to the younger punters, he will always be remembered by the older generation.

I can relate a few stories about the Hall Of Fame rider, including a trip to the Darwin Cup in the early 1980’s with Kym Berkefeld.

Darwin cup day can be a long day in the tropical heat, with social activities starting well before lunch time.

After the final race, Berkefeld and myself somehow found ourselves in the jockey’s room and made ourselves known to Midge Didham and John Letts.

We told Lettsy that we were from Mount Gambier and he then stated that Tearon, trained here by Ezzy Thompson, was a good thing to win in Adelaide at Victoria Park the following Saturday.

Being young and impressionable, we were chuffed with this information and, as it turned out, we were in Adelaide on the return journey and headed to Victoria Park.

We took Tearon one out in the fourtrella (as it was known those days) and backed the gelding also.

True to what Letts predicted, Tearon charged to the lead at the furlong pole and went on to win easily.

With our fourtrella dividend and the winnings from Tearon, our trip to Darwin had suddenly become a very cheap exercise.

Some months later, I was imbibing in the Nelson Hotel with local Harry Huebner who was a part owner of Tearon.

I congratulated Harry on the victory and told him Letts had given us the good oil to back Tearon.

Harry was a nice chap but did not always see the funny side of life.

He went red in the face, fuming “Letts never told any of the owners that Tearon was a good thing”.

Another occasion I was at Great Western races with Ron Cox (Mount Schank) and Anthony Rook (Digby) and we were doing our money on the punt.

When Letts was at his peak and winning premierships, there was a saying “when in doubt, back Letts in the last”.

Great Western races were huge in those days, with several thousand people in attendance, including university students who made the pilgrimage from Melbourne for the annual meeting.

In those days, the last race in Adelaide was normally the last race anywhere to have a bet and Tearon was a 6/1 chance in the final event at Victoria Park with Letts in the saddle.

We badly needed some money to square the ledger and have some necessities for the three hour trip home (fuel and beers).

These were pre-Sky Channel days with no telecast and only a radio broadcast over the public address system, and it seemed everyone left in the betting ring backed Tearon

Racecaller Ray Fewings incited the crowd with his call of “and Tearon is starting a run from well back in the field”, then “here comes Tearon out wide on the track”.

The cheering, no doubt helped by the intake of the local champagne throughout the day, got louder and louder and when Fewings said “and Tearon gets up to win”, the crowd went berserk.

It was suggested we immediately get in the bookmaker’s queue as there was every probability not all the punters would get paid out.

You could write a book on John Letts and, no doubt, a few more tales will be unearthed when he mixes and mingles with the crowd at Penola on Sunday.


MAY continues to be a good month for Naracoorte trainer Greg Scholefield with another two winners in the past nine days.

In-form pacer Jaccka Ted ($1.75 fav.) overcame racing three wide to make it a hat trick of wins at Globe Derby Park last Saturday night in the NR 60-72 pace, returning a brilliant mile rate of 1.55.7.

Three days earlier, former New Zealand pacer Stratofortress ($1.25 fav.) won his first Australian start for the Scholefield stable in the NR 51 pace at Hamilton.

Local trainer Bill Drury caused the upset of the Hamilton meeting when the previously out of form Your Not With Me won the NR 47 pace at tote odds of over 100/1 by leading all the way.

There were just the three races at the Greenwald Paceway last Tuesday night, three more than the co-share meeting at Port Pirie where all five races were abandoned due to the weather and state of the track.

Veteran Hamilton trainer Jim Barker teamed up with his granddaughter/driver Jackie Barker to win two of the three races with Presidentialchange ($4.20-$3.10 fav.) and Morgan Art ($4.20-$3.30).

Mingbool trainer David Drury won his seventh race of the local season when he drove Sweet American ($1.12 fav.) to an easy win in the final event.