By David Gilbert
HARNESS racing might be currently in recess here until November, but South East trained pacers well and truly made their presence felt at Globe Derby Park last Saturday night, winning three of the eight races.
Leading from the front was the in-form Van Mara who chalked up seven consecutive wins by taking out the feature race, the NR 72 or better pace.
Whereas Van Mara had been at backable odds at his previous six wins, it was a different situation last weekend when the veteran pacer went around at Winx like odds ($1.06).
Drawing gate five was not an issue once Samantha Pascoe was able to cross and lead and Van Mara gave backers no concern at any stage with a six-metre victory.
The slow mile rate – for that class of race – of 2.00.2 did not go unnoticed by stewards who fined Pascoe $100 for slow sectionals.
“He will not be going back to Adelaide this weekend as it is a standing start and Van Mara would be off the 50-metre mark,” trainer Steve Fennell stated.
Taking on older horses did not prove a problem for the promising Art Jester, an easy 25-metre winner of the opening event, the NR 43 pace.
The Alyce Finnis trained and Jayson Finnis driven two-year-old resumed from a four-month spell and made it a hat-trick of victories at only his fifth start.
Art Jester justified his short odds ($1.55) and registered the fastest mile rate on the program (1.58.0).
Naracoorte trainer Greg Scholefield then supplied the winner of the NR 51-59 pace when Stratofortress overcame a tricky draw – inside the second row – to win by six metres for claiming driver Corey Johnson.
Following two recent placings, Stratofortress ($5) broke through for his first win this campaign after sitting three wide for much of the trip.
Meanwhile, the Mount Gambier Harness Racing Club has released trial dates at the Greenwald Paceway for the next two months, commencing this Sunday (12/9), followed by Sunday, 26/9 and Sunday, 3/10.
ROLLERCOASTER START TO THE SEASON
THE new racing season has only been going for just over a month and it has been a rollercoaster start for local apprentice Jacob Opperman.
He had to sit out the start of the season in early August as he was in COVID isolation at home after riding in and around Melbourne for a week.
Opperman racked up a couple of winners upon resumption and then dominated the awards for apprentices at the recent Racing SA presentation night.
Racing SA stewards then took the gloss off things by handing Opperman a suspension for a fortnight which will not see the youngster return to the saddle until later this weekend.
The teenager pleaded guilty to a charge of giving misleading evidence to stewards at the Murray Bridge meeting on 25 August.
Stewards took into consideration Opperman’s guilty plea and also his relative inexperience when assessing the penalty.
WENT OUT ON A HIGH
RIDING winners at Casterton has always made Horsham-based jockey Dean Yendall a favourite with punters betting at the river valley track.
You would have thought Yendall was riding for his life at the last meeting of the year for the Casterton club last Sunday when he rode three of the seven winners.
It may have had something to do with the fact he copped a suspension at Moonee Valley the previous day for a careless riding charge which means he will miss nine meetings as from yesterday.
Only three jockeys rode winners at Casterton, with Declan Bates and Michael Poy chipping in with doubles.
The two most impressive winners were Aspen Colorado and Atomic Rock, both late in the day.
Punters were on the ball as the longest priced winner for the meeting was the first-starter Timson ($4.20) in the first race.
As has become the norm at Casterton meetings in recent years, Warrnambool trained gallopers again dominated and won four races.
BROKE A LONG DROUGHT
WITH the number of horses trained at Millicent the lowest in living memory, it was great to see Millicent trainer Ray Gilcrist back in the winner’s stall at Penola on Wednesday.
The win by Tarasque ($9.50) in the 1100-metre maiden gave Gilcrist his first winner for more than three years and the only placed runner Gilcrist had with his last 50 runners was a third by Tarasque at Edenhope back in June.
“He’s been dumb and a lot of jockeys would not get on him,” Gilcrist stated post race about his winner.
“He was too big and strong for the kids and that’s why senior jockey Dominic Tourneur had the ride today.
“He hurt his back as a three year old and also went shin sore,” Gilcrist added, explaining why the five-year-old gelding was only having his fourth career start at Penola.
While the Casterton club had its last meeting for 2021 last Sunday, it was the opposite end of the spectrum for Penola which conducted the first of five meetings for the new season.
You know spring and the warmer weather has arrived when Penola can race on a Soft 5 surface in early September, as was the case on Wednesday.
MOST racing clubs these days are always on the lookout for more sponsors.
Not so the little, once-a-year club of Quorn, nestled in the Flinders Ranges, 40 kilometres north east of Port Augusta.
Quorn always used to race in June prior to the Port Augusta cup, but a switch in recent times to August has paid dividends, not only weather wise, but in regards to support from sponsors.
Its non-TAB meeting last month had 20 sponsors for the six races, meaning some races had up to four sponsors with naming rights.
With a temperature of 25 degrees, the day was a resounding success to say the least.
85-year-old Fred Grose, who is the current treasurer of the club following a stint as secretary, was still doing the figures when I spoke to him earlier this week.
“It cost us a lot more money this year by having to supply more tables and chairs for everyone to sit down, plus employing more security staff, yet it was one of our best meetings ever,” Grose said.
“We did not have any pre-selling of tickets and still managed to have a capacity crowd (1,000) to satisfy COVID requirements.
“People were simply looking for a good day out to escape the problems of COVID and it was fantastic to see everyone enjoying themselves.”
NO GRAND NATIONALS THIS YEAR
WITH the South Australian Jockey Club ending its association with jumps racing, this season’s South Australian Grand National hurdle and steeplechase were moved to Oakbank and due to be run this Sunday (September 12).
It was supposed to be the last jumping meeting of the year in Australia as the Victorian year ended with the Grand National meeting at Ballarat almost a fortnight ago.
However, with the Victorian border still closed, those two events for Oakbank have been scrapped as a high percentage of both runners and jockeys would have been required to have come from Victoria to make the fields viable.