By Ray Hickson
They came oh so close in 2018 and Dorrigo’s Garry Penfold and the ‘Eight Is Enough’ syndicate are back bigger and better in their quest to snare country racing’s biggest prize – the $1.3m The Kosciuszko.
It all happened over a round of drinks and some persuasive words from Penfold, who has been breeding and racing horses for 40 years, saw the syndicate form and pool money into purchasing a $5 ticket in The Kosciuszko sweep.
Of course they didn’t just buy one – their investment realised around 160 tickets and they selected Suncraze who would finish runner-up in the inaugural Kosciuszko race at Royal Randwick.
“A lot of us are avid racing followers and owners, we’ve been in syndicates together for a lot of years,'' he said.
“We were having a beer at the pub one night and it was coming up, I talked them in to chucking in $100 each and we bought $800 worth of tickets.
“What I said when we bought the tickets is you’ve got a better chance of winning something in this than in the lottery.
“That’s the way I looked at it. And it was one of the best times of our lives.’’
So far this year the ‘Eight Is Enough’ crew has bought an estimated $2000 worth of the $5 tickets and Penfold said the group hasn’t ruled out buying more before the cut off time of 11.59pm on September 8.
Penfold, 66, has now experienced both The Kosciuszko and the Country Championships as an owner and says they are concepts that have poured life into regional centres.
He was an owner of Ultimate Dreamer, trained by Jim Jarvis, who ran second in the 2016 Grafton Qualifier and led the field for home in the Country Championships Final won by Clearly Innocent.
“What Racing NSW is doing for country racing and country people now is unbelievable,’’ he said.
“(The Country Championships) was a very good experience, I’d like to have it over again with the same horse but it ain’t going to happen.’’
He won’t get a second chance with Ultimate Dreamer but Penfold is already sizing up the contenders for The Kosciuszko in case he again gets the call all 14 slot winners will receive following the draw.
Suncraze, trained at Tamworth by Melanie O'Gorman, was on the group’s short list for 2018 and while Penfold admits to have chased both early favourites, Victorem and Care To Think, last year the syndicate couldn’t have been happier with the result.
He says any prospective slot winner should educate themselves about the horses available and he’ll be following a similar method that landed them on Suncraze last year.
“(Suncraze) is a good bush horse and he was always on our list. We had about six or seven we liked,’’ he said.
Suncraze runs second to Belflyer in the inaugural The Kosciuszko at Randwick
“We did a long range weather forecast, which came in handy, I looked at the horses around and the barrier trials of horses that were coming back.
“It’s a matter of doing your form and we weren’t too far off the mark.’’
The $1.3m The Kosciuszko (1200m) is run on Everest Day at Royal Randwick (October 19) and is for NSW country trained horses with two spaces available in the 14 horse field in 2019 for horses trained in Canberra.
The $5 tickets in the Kosciuszko sweep are now on sale at TAB venues across NSW and online via TAB’s website and App. TAB account holders don’t need to register their tickets but if you don’t have an account head to thekosciuszko.com.au to register them.
The 14 sweep winners will be drawn on Tuesday 10 September.