It may not have been Michelle Payne and the Melbourne Cup, but try telling Chelsea MacFarlane her win in the Balranald Cup didn’t count for much, as Peter Sweeney reports.
They told us all the racing eyes were on Winx at Randwick at 4.30pm on Saturday.
Just as the mighty mare was jumping from the gates to yet again do what she does best – running ’em ragged – a galloper called Ragged Keys was returning to scale at a course dubbed ‘Little Randwick’.
That’s what the locals in the lower western New South Wales town of Balranald call Greenham Park, the sporting complex which hosts two race meetings a year.
Saturday was Balranald Cup day and the course, and the local pub, the Shamrock, saw one of the most enthusiastic celebrations a winning jockey could put on.
Chelsea MacFarlane couldn’t get an apprenticeship from racing authorities in Melbourne when Swan Hill trainer Con Kelly took her there years ago.
MacFarlane was riding trackwork for Kelly and he believed she was good enough to mix it with the big boys, so to speak. But she missed getting a start, so took her saddle to the Australian Capital Territory, got a berth and hasn’t stopped riding winners.
The Swan Hill girl was back in familiar turf on the weekend, aboard defending champ Ragged Keys. She jumped the Commands sired five-year-old gelding to the lead and raced him away for a one and a half length win in the $12,500 race.
The only person with as big a smile as MacFarlane was Kelly. Being the trainer and part-owner was one reason, but his belief in MacFarlane’s ability was also vindicated.
“Well done, Chelz, knew you would get a big one for me one day,” Kelly said.
The man who covers more ground with his horses than early explorers Burke and Wills did, was grounded.
A foul-mooded member of his stable – equine, not human – saw to that on the last day of January at the Leeton races.
Ragged Keys won that day, but Kelly couldn’t celebrate after his right knee was smashed when a horse kicked out at him.
The only consolation was that the orthopaedic surgeon who visits Swan Hill from Melbourne each month was due the following day. Kelly is now wired up like a caged lion and will this week know – when the surgeon returns to the Murray River town – if a month off his feet and other treatment has worked.
Kelly mightn’t have been able to celebrate on Saturday night – not so MacFarlane.
She jumped around the front bar of the Shamrock Hotel like a little lad in a lolly shop, and danced the night away as patrons signed “well done” messages on her Balranald Racing Club shirt.