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   Past News Merton and Pakenham 1st January 2014
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Merton Report

by Brad Best
“Meet me at Merton on New Year’s Day;
Under the shade of the elm trees’ sway.
We’ll return ev’ry year, come what may;
Here, back at Merton, on New Year’s Day!”

While many woke to the new year tired and bleary-eyed, the Merton Amateur Turf Club were up early, playing out a tradition dating back almost 150 years. In the shadows of the great elms, marquees bloomed in their once-a-year display, witches hats sprouted out of pebbles and dust and, in the middle of it all, friendly faces thrived, filling the front lawn of the fabled racetrack with vibrant colour. This annual event never fails to disappoint, its atmosphere unique among all picnic race meetings.

On the track, riding honours went to Shiralee Maher, her double highlighted by an all the way win in the Merton Cup. Taking the reins of Well Written, Maher made it look easy out in front, dominating the race from start to finish to take out the time-honoured event. It was the seven-year-old gelding’s sixth career win and third for the season, giving trainer and husband Paul Maher the best possible start to 2014. Maher also won the first of the day on board even-money favourite Dane’s Edge, the three-quarter of a length victory another feather in the cap for experienced trainer Gordon Strang.

In race two, six-year-old mare Little Miss Moolah, ridden by Courtney Pace, proved too strong in a competitive seven-horse field, pulling away to record a two-length win almost a year after her last start. In race three, Vixenite returned to the track just three days after the much talked about photo finish in Mansfield. Remarkably, in another closely run two-horse race, the nine-year-old mare was involved in yet another photo finish, this time with Datodragon. Thankfully, there was no mistake this time as Vixenite, ridden by Adam Roustoby, was rightfully given the win by a short head.

Well Written wins the Merton Cup

In the fourth, Rochelle Adams notched up her first ever win at the picnics from her eighth start, guiding four-year-old gelding Chosen Place to a dominant three-and-a-half length win. While in race six, Craig Kirkpatrick rounded out the day with a strong win on board top weight Supreme Athena, storming home down the middle of the track to record a three-quarter of a length victory.
Once again, it was another New Year’s Day to remember in the Victorian high country. Next year, Merton Amateur Turf Club celebrates its 150th anniversary, a meeting sure to be the biggest in the club’s history. With just 365 sleeps to go, be sure to mark it in your brand new diary now!

Visit the Merton photo gallery for the days action. Race results for Merton.

Pakenham Report
by Ken Pitcher

It was Grand Finale Raceday at Pakenham on New Years Day and after 139 years of picnic racing at "Bourkes Paddock" the 2014 meeting was the final meeting to be held at the popular Pakenham Racecourse. The Pakenham Racing Club moves to Tynong during 2014 and at this stage it is uncertain whether a picnic meeting will be held at that track in 2015.

A good crowd attended the final meeting however rain began falling prior to race 1 and continued throughout the afternoon resulting in track downgrades. Entertainment was provided by a Bushranger hold up re-enactment and of course the traditional Fashions on the Field. Riding honours of the day went to local "boy", Adam Bodey, who rode 3 winners including the two main races, The David Bourke Plate and O'Connor Pakenham Picnic Cup.

Race 1 - the hot favourite, Party Star, trained locally by Paul Kramer, started the day well for Bodey with a easy 3 length win.
Race 2 - Kernel started a hot favourite but Argentinian Storm, perfectly handled in front by Matthew Brown, appreciated the 1400m and scored an impressive win. Trainer Glenn Thornell may back up "storm" at Woolamai on Sunday.
Race 3 - Danni Walker rode a perfect race on Demozi to finish with a well timed run to record the geldings 3rd win for the season. The fav, Big Baba Looey, was floundering out the back for most of the race.
Race 4 - Fittingly the Bourke Plate was won by Innovate, owned by racing commentator and form analyst, Dean Lester, a good friend of the late David Bourke. Bodey had to use all his skill to catch Little Miss Izzy, who kicked clear in the straight, but caught her right on the line. The heavily backed Beau Baron was a big disappointment.
Race 5 - The Drouin Cup proved a good form guide for this race with Spinning Tune (Bodey), with a pull in the weights, being able to turn the tables on Wait Forette, and go on to an impressive win.
Race 6 - Bemarydan jumped straight to the front in the final event and piloted by Grant Seccombe, proved far too good for the opposition.

And so the curtain falls on picnic racing at Pakenham, I'm sure many people will have great memories of past events but hopefully it won't be the last meeting conducted by the PPRC.

Race results for Pakenham.



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