It may not have been the hallowed turf of Royal Randwick but it mattered little to Michael Wade.
The 21-year-old Hawkesbury-based approved rider was more than 300km from home when he rode his first winner at the Geurie picnics on Saturday. And there was a real Hawkesbury flavour about the result!
Having only the seventh ride of his career, Wade won the Trophy Handicap (1400m) on Lakota Sioux ($7), prepared at Dubbo by former Hawkesbury trainer Connie Greig, for whom he rode work. Lakota Sioux fought on gamely to defeat last-start Orange picnics winner and $2.10 favourite Spinning Dawn, who until recently was trained at Hawkesbury by Scott Singleton.
A small village on the Mitchell Highway between Dubbo and Wellington, Geurie is well known in racing circles as the former home of iconic pair Betty Lane (Australia’s first licensed female No. 1 trainer) and her partner, the late Tiger Holland.
Saturday’s six-race picnic meeting was billed as the “jewel in Geurie’s social calendar crown” – and will long be remembered by Wade.
“This was only the fourth meeting I have ridden at, and it was a terrific thrill to break through for my first winner,” Wade said upon arriving home on Sunday after an overnight stay at Dunedoo. “The commentator said I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.”
Wade rides trackwork at Hawkesbury for trainers Jamie Thomsen and Jason Attard and didn’t let them down on Saturday in what proved to be a long but unforgettable day. He rose at 3.30am to ride work for both trainers before heading off from his Windsor home at 10am for the four-hour drive to Geurie, where he had bookings in the last three races.
Wade ran second on Blinkin Doubtful ($13) at his first Geurie ride, then won on former Queenslander Lakota Sioux and finished fourth on Red Pegasus ($11) in the final race.
Lakota Sioux, a six-year-old by 2004 Caulfield Cup winner Elvstroem, was having his 12th start since crossing the border and joining Greig’s team, and had not been placed in his previous 11. This was his first win since scoring at Ipswich in November 2016.
Wade made his debut at the annual Bong Bong Cup picnic meeting on November 24 and his first three career rides were all for Hawkesbury trainers (Wanda Ings, Craig Weeding and Mitch Kearney).
Two of his mounts, Whanau Force and Chocolate Coated, were placed that day and subsequently won at professional meetings at Port Macquarie and Queanbeyan respectively. He also rode Whanau Force when placed at the Gosford picnics on December 16 and then had one unplaced ride at the Orange picnics on January 13.
Wade praised the condition of the turf track presented for the Geurie meeting: “It’s pretty dry out there, and they did a good job with the course,” he said. “All things considered, it was in good nick.”