NOT one. Not a single favourite was successful at Stony Creek last Sunday, including the cup winner Scelto, which saluted at better than 30-1 odds.
It all started in Race One where cup winning jockey, Brandon Stockdale, warmed up with an all-the-way win on Firepark, scoring by two lengths from the well-fancied Shemai, with the favourite Grand Filou three lengths further back.
Stockdale clearly learned something about the ‘Soft 5’ rated track and used that knowledge to best advantage when he skipped away from the hard-chasing Adirondack (8-1) and Pemberley (odds on) in the main event five races later to win the $75,000 cup narrowly.
And the jockeys must have been talking about the track in the rooms as well because experienced hoop Noel Callow said it was his opinion that the track had been over-watered during the week for the meeting, making the going uneven and heavy.
The cloudy conditions which proved ideal for racegoers didn’t allow the track to dry as might have been expected in warmer weather.
It meant that front-running horses would prove difficult to catch all day.
Keep the Justice was equally impressive winning Race 2, the Landcare Plate, again stealing a march on the opposition and paying $7.60 on the TAB, from Big Delight at 16-1. At one stage in the straight, jockey Ethan Brown was as much as 10 lengths in front, holding on to a two-length advantage on the line.
Race Three, the Dr David Stobo Plate, was another boilover result for the bookies with jockey Brian Higgins bringing back the first of three winners for the day, Shuumatsu, again setting up a big lead in the straight and only just out-lasting the hot-favourite Equidant, a very good thing beaten.
Shuumatsu’s connections were delighted with Higgins’ ride, describing it as a “good gusty win”. Higgins said after the race that he believed the three year old, in only its second race, would be even better suited over more distance.
The Stobo family who sponsored the race in memory of their late father and husband, a well-known veterinarian at the Cranbourne race club, said their father loved racing and would have been happy to see them supporting Stony Creek on cup day.
Dangerous Spin ridden by Jye McNeil followed the recipe in Race 4, the Hartley Wells Betta Home Living Handicap, again beating the favourite by two lengths.
Race Five was a ding-dong battle down the straight and up to the line with Crusoe out-sprinting Spritely Girl and Jungle Edge to win the Danny O’Brien MP Handicap by a length, for Brian Higgins’ second winner of the day. Owner Tony Migliore patted Higgins on the back, describing his efforts as “a ripping ride”.
It all cleared the way to the main event, the TAC ‘Be Races Ready’ Stony Creek Cup, and what an excellent field the club had turned out for the $75,000 event, with $41,250 in cash for the winning connections.
Black Cavier trainer, Peter Moody, had two starters including the highly fancied Pemberley, winner of its past two races at Flemington. Three-time Melbourne premiership jockey, Darren Gauci, was back to try and relive the success of a few years ago and although he didn’t win on Black Chevalier, he might have been interested in the promising second place by Adirondack, sired by one of Gauci’s most prolific mounts, Lonhro.
There were numerous other prominent trainers with horses engaged, but the local hope, Malabar Man, part-owned by race club president Paul O’Sullivan and his wife Jenny, was scratched.
The eventual winner Scelto was well positioned throughout and held out Adirondack and the fast-finishing favourite Pemberley.
One of the owners, John Tingiri, said that while the connections had survived various troubles with the horse, it had provided them with many thrills over its career including the 2015 Colac Cup, the 2016 Great Western Cup and a narrow loss in the 2016 Colac Cup before saluting at Stony Creek, reaching almost $300,000 in prize money along the way.
Lang Lang trainer
The closest thing to a ‘local’ winning a race on cup day was when Lang Lang trainer Dianne Clover saddled up Florence in Race 7, the Cervus Equipment Handicap. In the best contest of the meeting, the cheers went up as Mi Lads Princess appeared to swamp Florence on the line and even Brian Higgins the jockey admitted later that he suspected Michael Carson would get the result but, on a bob of the head, it was a win to Florence, much to the delight of South Gippsland Shire Mayor, Cr Bob Newton, who topped off a great day on the punt with a winner at 9-1.
All that remained was the last race on the card, the Williams Tracy and Associates Handicap. The course announcer made mention of the son of the great Makybe Diva in the event, Taqneen, a gelding by Lonhro, starting at the generous odds of 50-1 and ridden by Darren Gauci.
But the royally bred four year old ran like a 50-1 horse, not according to its $360,000 price tag, and finished 11th of 13 starters, with Kawabata bombing the favourite backers again to win at 7-1 with Georgina Cartwright in the saddle.
Despite the trouble most punters had finding a winner, the day was a great success with ideal weather, interesting racing, fine food and wine, fun for the kids and adults alike and the whole scene a picture of country racing at its very best.