Among those enjoying the races was the official group of vice-president Bruce Spiden, race club sponsor Greg Price of Alex Scott & Staff, committee member Helen Matheson, racing identity Kevin Price, and Woolamai DRC president Robert Carmichael.

French jockey Marie-Melodie Pomarede, riding Gem Edition, holds off the fast-finishing Manhattan Zip to win Race 2 at Woolamai on Saturday.

Jockey Dani Walker gives a flourish of the whip as she pilots her 100th winner over the line at Woolamai on Saturday. Barringer was also her first winner as a trainer.

THE local racing season got off to a flying start at the picturesque Woolamai Race Course on Saturday, with a big crowd under the course’s magnificent old elm trees and strung out along the running rail, and with popular jockey Dani Walker riding a special double.

But it was a day of picnic racing at its best that nearly didn’t happen, according to Woolamai and District Racing Club president Robert Carmichael.

“We had surface water lying on the track last week and if we’d have got even 5mm of rain this week, the races would have been off,” he declared, looking out over the festive scene of hundreds of people enjoying pre-Christmas picnics as the horses flew by.

As it turned out the track was rated at a ‘Soft 5’ with an excellent coverage of grass, ideal for the first meeting of the season.

And getting things off with a flourish of the whip as she passed the winning post in Race 1 was jockey-turned-trainer Dani Walker riding her 100th winner and also her first as a new trainer, when 1. Barringer saluted by one and a quarter-lengths, over 8. Stay A While and 7. Secret Surprise.

Dani was absolutely delighted to taste some early success with ‘Bazza’ a horse she’d taken over from Robbie Griffiths only three weeks earlier.

“He just didn’t do well in a stables environment with all those other horses and he’s just loving getting the personal treatment with us at Devon Meadows,” said Dani after the win.

“I think there’s some improvement in him and a run in the pros (professional racing) might be on the cards.”

Prize money at Woolamai of $5000 per race wasn’t too shabby anyway with the winning connections pocketing $2300 to go towards expenses.

One of Woolamai’s most successful jockies, Dani was thereabouts all day and saluted again for a double in Race 4 after a narrow victory on the plucky 9-year-old mare Denhill, her first win in 30 starts.

Two jockies rode doubles on the day with Jack Virgona cleaning up in the last two races of the day on 10. Chillydog in Race 5 and 3. Fleet Dreams in Race 6.

Along the way, French jockey, Marie-Melodie Pomarede, held off a fast-finishing Manhattan Zip (one for the black book) to win Race 2 on Number 6. Gem

Edition, only her sixth race win, while Kiarna Bailey won Race 3 in fine style on Number 11 Hawkestone only its second race win in 50 starts.

Kiarna is no stranger to success at Woolamai having the happy memory of piloting Blinky O’Reilly to victory in the 2021 Woolamai Cup for just her second race win.

A feature event on the card was Race 5, the Tom Wilson Memorial Handicap over 1608 metres in memory of the track’s devoted curator Tom Wilson who

looked after the track for 15 years, was a successful horse trainer and also a volunteer for the San Remo SES Unit.

There are five more race meetings this season:

• Sunday, January 2, 2022.

• Saturday, January 15, 2022.

• Saturday, February 5, 2022 (Alex Scott & Staff Woolamai Cup).

• Saturday, February 19, 2022.

• Sunday, March 6, 2022