Hawkesbury trainer Rebecca Brewer never took part in a two-horse race when she rode under her maiden name (Mawdsley) and neither had apprentice Alena Skerritt - until yesterday that is.
Brewer broke back into the winning list when she teamed with Skerritt to land the two-horse 3YO Maiden Handicap (1350m) at Wyong after there were four scratchings. Brewer’s lightly-raced Fields Of Glory ($2.30) nosed out $1.55 favourite Supreme Rhythm after a thrilling tussle between the pair in the straight.
Her jockey husband Robbie rode the Wanted gelding when he finished eighth in a Maiden Plate (1280m) at Muswellbrook on March 2, but passed up the Wyong mount as he would have struggled to make Fields Of Glory’s 54.5kg.
Enter Skerritt, who is apprenticed to Warwick Farm trainer Matthew Smith, and makes a weekly trip to Hawkesbury to ride work for a couple of trainers.
“I was going out on to the track at Hawkesbury the other morning beside Alena, and didn’t have a rider for Fields Of Glory,” Brewer explained on her way home from the Wyong meeting.
“I asked Alena if she would be interested in riding him, and she said yes. I was a bit dubious about putting an apprentice on this horse because he isn’t the easiest to ride, but Alena did a good job.”
As it turned out, Brewer’s on the spot decision to offer the mount to the young rider proved a masterstroke. Skerritt’s 3kg claim clearly meant the difference between victory and defeat. With only 51.5kg, Fields Of Glory had a 3.5kg advantage over his rival in such a tense finish.
Skerritt had to stop riding and straighten her mount 150m from the post when he laid in under pressure, but he managed to lift and snatch victory in virtually the last bound.
Fields Of Glory had started at $41, $61 and $71 at his previous three starts, and Brewer jokingly gave him a “50 percent chance” of breaking through at Wyong. The three-year-old’s victory was even more special as Brewer recently purchased him from his previous owner and now races him with her best friend Lyn Hynes.
“Fields Of Glory wasn’t broken in until November 2016 and was still rather erratic when he came to me,” she said. “He is still extremely immature, but that win will surely boost his confidence. I think he will appreciate the sting out of the ground and also will be better over a bit of distance.”
Brewer, who currently has only four horses in work at Hawkesbury and would like to increase her team, started 50% of her stable at Wyong. After scoring with Fields Of Glory, John’s Maryanne ($51) tailed the field home at her first start in the Maiden Plate (1200m).
Matthew Vella made it a Hawkesbury double when his Commands filly Bella Vella (Grant Buckley) turned in a gutsy performance to land the Benchmark 73 Handicap (1100m). A $7.50 chance, Bella Vella had been placed at Hawkesbury, Kembla Grange and Wyong and returned to the latter track to post a well-deserved success. Vella’s filly is a model of consistency. From 10 starts, she has won three and been placed on five occasions.
“I also accepted with her in the Class 2 Handicap over the same distance, and felt this was the better option,” Vella said. “She is very genuine, and I’m rapt that Grant won on her. We’re good mates.”
Buckley returned the compliment after dismounting. “Matthew is a good young guy on the way up,” he said. Buckley wisely took a sit on front-runner Johnny Roo Boy after the first couple of hundred metres in a fast run race, and after taking over on straightening, tenaciously repelled the late challenge from $2.10 favourite Hong Qigong. Fields Of Glory and Bella Vella’s wins lifted the Hawkesbury tally to 47 since the start of the new year.