by Brad Best
Picnic racing returned to Healesville on Saturday with a bumper crowd attending the Christmas race meeting. In perfect conditions, the Healesville Amateur Racing Club staged another magnificent event, playing host to a bevy of Christmas parties and end-of-year work gatherings. From the top of the straight to the tip of the car park, marquees of merrymakers lined the racetrack, each with their own stories to tell; each more embellished than the last as afternoon slipped into early evening. Eskies and picnic rugs turned the front lawn into a tapestry of colour, a jumping castle and pony rides kept the kids entertained throughout the afternoon and a live band kept the crowd buzzing well after the last race had been run. This is what picnic racing is all about. Week-after-week, racetrack-to-racetrack, we return to these tiny pockets of Victoria for an atmosphere that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the state.
On the track, Adam Bodey kicked off proceedings in typical fashion, bullocking his way to the front on favourite Nine Mile Sniper before gamely holding off a late challenge from Break Even to win the first by a nose. In the second, Balnarring Cup winner Anyone Seen Digger, ridden by Matthew Corbisiero, was sensationally backed from $3-00 into $1.90, sparking tremendous activity in the betting ring. The betting plunge was vindicated minutes later when the whirr of grey flew home down the outside of the track to gobble up the field, the three-quarters-of-a-length victory making punters, and one bookmaker/owner, very happy indeed.
Race three saw Wait Forette deliver another dominant on-pace performance, the seven-year-old gelding notching up its third victory for the season for trainers Kim & Gayle Mayberry and jockey Stephanie Dorning. In race four, Argentinian Storm made it four from four for the favourites with jockey Matthew Brown finishing strongest in the field of three, winning by three lengths.