By Doug Ryan
Six-year-old local mare Sheza Gypsy turned a previous inglorious run into a winning one in the Harrington Hotel Harrington Cup (1300m) before a record crowd for the Taree Wingham Race Club’s TAB meeting on Thursday.
The win gave the Michael Byers-trained galloper a reprieve from going to the breeding barn in making it five wins, four on the Bushland Drive track, in 20 starts in scoring by a half-neck in the Benchmark 65 Handicap.
Byers said before the race she would be retired should she not run up to expectations but winkers for the first time and a lovely front running ride by Hall Of Fame jockey Robert Thompson did the trick.
The mare was helped by the scratching of the $2 favourite, Gosford mare Single And Free, and two others on race morning.
Punters trying to recoup losses on Sheza Gypsy following some dismal showings when favoured bet up with the mare firming from $6 to $4.20.
Port Macquarie six-year-old gelding Explosive Scene ($5), trained by Marc Quinn and having its first run from a spell, headed Sheza Gypsy about 100m out but she fought back to just grab victory.
“What a relief to win,” Byers said.
“She had a virus last start, slipped leaving the gates and was stuck on the fence last start, which she didn’t like.”
Thompson said he had a lovely run in front and being unchallenged until late”she liked it.”
Port Macquarie’s Laredo Hussler ($10) trained by Neil Godbolt also put in a bad run for last at his previous start in Sheza Gypsy’s race but improved to be 1.5 lengths away in third spot.
Taree three-year-old gelding Dubai Sights ($4.60) trained by Matthew Robinson and ridden by Ben Looker showed his real worth with a 1.25 lengths win in the Club Harrington-Oxley Anchorage Caravan Park Entires & Geldings Benchmark 55 Handicap (1000m). He was previously found to have a low blood count.
“My horse has been crook, the blood cells showed he was anaemic,” Robinson said.
“I thought he would have bolted in last start at Tuncurry (7th) until I found he had a few issues.
“I put winkers on him and if his form continues to be good, I have big plans.” They could involve tackling the $150,000 heat of The Championships at Taree on 26 February.
Taree trainer Wayne Wilkes provided the loudest reception of the day when three-year-old Kendalman ($5) turned a second last start into a win for a big group of Kendall owners in the Colonial Holiday Park & Leisure Village Maiden Handicap over 1000m. Apprentice jockey Chloe Baker, a Kendall resident and a long time participant in the town’s pony club, was aboard making the win even sweeter.
Newcastle trainer Jason Deamer had a rare winning double with three-year-old filly Bonita ($2.10) in the Discovery Parks Harrington Fillies & Mares Benchmark 55 Handicap over 1000m and three-year-old filly Lady Evelyn ($3.40) in the L.J. Hooker Real Estate Harrington Maiden Plate over 1400m. Chad Lever piloted both.
Bonita in scoring by 1.5 lengths made it two wins from four starts for a syndicate of owners headed by Andy Pacey who saw his first win racing gallopers.
Lady Evelyn showed she was in for some more wins in scoring by 3.5 lengths at only her second start.
Newcastle four-year-old gelding Dead Calm ($2.40),trained by Kris Lees and ridden by Aaron Bullock, made it three wins in a row from five starts in the Coopernook Hotel Class 3 Handicap over 1600m to give the trainer about 60 winners for the season so far.
Jockey Chris O’Brien came from mid-field and the widest in the straight to score a last stride win by a short head on three-year-old filly Pindara ($2.90),trained at Wyong by Allan Denham, in the Harrington Harbourside Cellars-Professionals Real Estate Harrington 3YO Maiden Handicap over 1250m.