There was drama aplenty, but none of it worried Hawkesbury trainer Terry Croft on his home track on Thursday. Croft was confident before the running of the Yellowglen Provincial & Country Maiden Handicap (1300m) that he could produce first starter Orokonui ($9) for a winning debut.
And the late withdrawals of rivals Music Miss in the parade ring and Cool One at the start certainly didn’t dim his confidence. Croft was proven correct when Orokonui (Mitchell Bell) finished best to land the Maiden in an all Hawkesbury result.
Despite being “new” to the game, the four-year-old was strongest when it counted and edged clear in the closing stages to beat other Hawkesbury horses Hinchman ($4.20) and Lugard Road ($4.40). Croft was matter of fact as he awaited Orokonui’s return to the enclosure. “I thought he’d win; I was confident,” he said.
“Michael Freedman had him earlier (until he relocated to Hong Kong for the start of the new season) and we gave him a nice easy trial earlier in the month. Then at his second 1000m trial (on September 18) here, he raced four deep and went super.”
Orokonui, a four-year-old by English stallion Redwood, has certainly been a work in progress. Freedman gave him four trials – two in November and December last year and another two in January – but didn’t take him to the races.
At his last trial for him, he finished second of three starters over 1250m at Hawkesbury on January 16. Mitchell Bell rode him then, and had the mount for the gelding’s debut.
“It took a while to get him to the races, and the trainer (Croft) has done a good job to get him here,” Bell said. “He will only improve; there is a lot of upside to him. He’s going to be better suited when he gets up around 1600m.”
Stewards reported Orokonui laid in throughout the race and also raced greenly in the middle stages. Other Hawkesbury runners Music Miss and Cool One didn’t get to oppose Orokonui. Music Miss reared in the parade ring, dislodging rider Grant Buckley. She made heavy contact with the pathway and was withdrawn.
The drama didn’t end there. Cool One became fractious in the barrier stalls, reared and struck her head and became cast on the partition. She also was ruled unfit to start.
Eventual runner-up Hinchman was in the stall next to Cool One, and was backed out and examined before being given the go-ahead to start.
Brenton Avdulla has made an early statement for 2017-18 Hawkesbury premiership honours. He built on a treble at last Thursday’s meeting with a four-win haul this time. His winners were State Of Play ($1.90), Groundbreak ($1.85), Not Surprising ($2.60) and All From Scrap ($1.85).
State Of Play (trainer Gerald Ryan), Groundbreak (Team Hawkes) and All From Scrap (David Atkins) were favorites, and Not Surprising (Kris Lees) was second favorite. Avdulla was runner-up to Tye Angland in the 2014-15 premiership at Hawkesbury, then finished on top the following season with 23 wins. He finished third last year to Angland and Josh Parr.