Picnic racing sounded a triumphant return to Healesville on Saturday as, for the first time in almost a year, the peal of barrier gates echoed around the foothills of the Yarra Ranges. In near-perfect conditions, eager faces – both familiar and fresh – flooded the racetrack on the banks of the mercifully-tame Watts River to soak up the carnival-like atmosphere. From the first race to the last shout, Healesville had the cheerful feel of a family reunion (without the awkward appearance of that distant cousin whose name no one ever seems to get quite right).
On the track, punters were treated to a competitive six-race card in which six different jockeys shared the spoils. In race one, Clay Beasy steered favourite Cavallo Reigns to a powerful four-length victory over second favourite Miss Dynamite; while in race two, Angela Bence cleverly rounded up the field on board Prospector’s Luck ($3.60) to give the five-year-old gelding its first victory from its tenth start.
Race three belonged to the Gordon Strang trained mare No Rhyme Or Reason. Trailing Marlborough into the straight, apprentice Reece Goodwin timed his run to perfection, sailing past the even-money favourite to record a half-length win.
In races four and five, stewards were kept busy with two consecutive photo finishes separating the prizewinners. In race four, nine-year-old Cheeky Wizard, ridden by Dani Walker, held off a strong challenge from favourite Kondoa to record its fourth career win. In the penultimate race of the day, seven-year-old gelding Show’Em Earnest carried a massive 71 kilograms (including the combined weight of experience of Adam Bodey) to grind out a gutsy win in the Brian Bren CRV/VBA Sprinters Series Final over 1200 metres.
As the sun dipped on the final race at Healesville, punters witnessed the most dominant ride of the day with Grant Seccombe booting home $5 outsider Emerald Dan to a six-length victory in what many experts had earlier considered a two-horse race. This, as a wise man once said, “just goes to show that there is no such thing as a certainty in racing.” (Punters please take note: this quote was made pre-Black Caviar. Even the wisest of men couldn’t have seen that one coming.)
Many thanks to the Healesville Amateur Racing Club and everyone involved in the successful reconstruction of the track.
Show'em Ernest wins the Sprinter Series Final
After a long run of bad luck over the past couple of years, it was both a joy and relief to hear the whips cracking down the Healesville straight once again.
Visit the Picture Gallery for all the action at Healesville.
Next Week.... Picnic Racing goes to Alexandra and Hinnomunjie next Saturday and on the Monday public holiday we head off down to Balnarring.