A day (or two) at the races

We finished 2017 heading up to Corowa for their final race meeting of the year. A seven race card, TAB status, and my (5% ownership) horse was running. After an impressive breakthrough win at Wodonga two starts back, it had faltered over the mile at Wagga the following race, but it was back at its wining distance, seven furlongs, for this meeting. Yet I still had concerns. Twice it had run at its home track, Corowa; twice I was there, twice it was unplaced. For this race it was also the top weight 61kgs, with Matthew Cahill the hoop. A lot of weight for a horse with only the one win. Matthew Cahill, is an experienced jockey who’d ridden a winner in Sydney for Chris Waller a few days prior, but sadly whenever I back Mathew I can’t get a collect. It would be twelve months since I’d put a bet on a ride of Matthew’s. Hopefully that would all change this day.


To start the day we had a good chat with Geoff Duryea, the trainer. Geoff was for many years a leading jockey in the southern region, serving his apprenticeship with legendary Bert Honeychurch from Berrigan. Geoff has trained from Corowa since he finished riding , proving himself an astute judge of horses. We discussed how my horse would run today. The plan was to run up front, near the pace, with a strong finish. It worked wonders at Wodonga.


The opening race of the day was the Open sprint over five furlongs. The winner was an outsider Tycoon Tony, from Wangaratta. The day progressed nicely, a large, happy crowd, good races, pleasant company. Finally time for my horse to run: would I see a win in my presence? Out they came, final instructions given, saddled up in the mounting yards, off to the stalls at the 1600m mark, too far to have a close view of proceedings. Back into the members to take up our vantage point.


Waiting we could see the horses milling in the distance, then the announcement: my horse was a late scratching. I thought, hmm, yep it’s a mugs’ game. Post race I had a brief chin wag with Geoff. Apparently another horse lashed out kicking mine, the vet then had not passed it fit to run. Oh well, not sure where to next, Albury or Wagga are the only two tracks in the Riverina where there are races in January, or back to Victoria where one ride has equated to one win. I’ll be guided by Geoff.


In race 6 the winner was a Canberra trained horse, El Venetian. You must have thought it had won the Melbourne Cup, not a class two in Corowa. The large group of CUB’ s who were the winning owners charged into the members bar overjoyed. Congratulations, good to see your horse win, happy yes, but…


The Sweeney family were certainly winners at this Corowa meeting. The father Phil trained a pair of winners, daughter Brooke riding one of those; Financial Miss. The female jockeys kept up their recent good Corowa form, winning four of the races. We’ll be back in Corowa in March for the Cup.


A New Year, a new day, a new race meeting.


We headed up to Merton for the annual picnic meeting. They’ve been running at Merton since 1865, when Ned Kelly was still in short pants. On the way we stopped in at Yarck for a refresher. The famous hotel was closed, open after 4pm. We thought, fair enough, we’d get some tucker. The local cafe looked good, staff were friendly, the order was placed. Lo and behold there’s a 10% surcharge for public holidays. I thought they were kidding, but they weren’t. That really got my goat, but that’s life. I was informed it wouldn’t be a long wait for the food, apparently only 2 or 3 orders in front of mine. Well over half an hour later my food still hadn’t arrived, I was getting wild. A refund was obtained, we hoofed it off to to the track.


Merton is nestled up in the foothills around 130 K ‘s north of Melbourne. We’d been to fair few picnic meetings over the years, from Ardlethan to Yea, but this was our first time at Merton. A quaint track, well set up . We got there, found a spot in the rapidly filling car park, then were fortuitous enough to get onto a table with a good shade cloth covering it. Looking around the track it was obvious the club had been insightful in the siting of tables with fixed coverings. Perfect for a summer day.


The opener was a maiden over 1150M . Ten acceptances , ended up as six starters. Watching the runners come around the first corner the announcer called out, ‘High Flying Joe is last in the field, it looks like he’s being pulled out of the race: even worse, as leading picnic jockey Courtney Pace was then thrown by the horse. The ambulance rushed up to her. Race falls are horrible, the tragic loss of life stands testament to the risk jockeys encounter. How many other jobs have ambulances follow you every time you’re at work? Heart in mouth you hope Courtney is okay. She’s assisted into the ambulance and whisked away.Will she ride again? Is she badly injured?


This was answered in the next race where she rode the favourite Green Tea Ice, who got pipped on the line for a close second. Courtney showed her resilience, riding two more winners from her final three rides for the day. One of those was in race 4 where she rode Fold, a horse she trains, as well as rides. There’s a good skill. Little wonder she’s the leading picnic rider in Victoria.


The main race for the day was the Merton Cup , run over 1900M. A five horse field contested the race with the winner being the Bendigo runner, Kinjulator, ridden by experienced picnic jockey Craig Kirkpatrick, of the famous Kirkpatrick family. I had $$$ on the second, Falcon Rubi trained in Wangaratta by Chris Davis, ridden by Matthew Newton. This pair started the day on a flier winning the opening pair of races. In the Cup Va Va Voom set an amazing pace, like a 1200M sprint, at one stage leading by about 8 lengths before fading away. Congratulations to connections of the Merton Cup winner, Kinjulator.


It’ s intriguing noticing that Merton Cricket Ground is situated inside the race track. The high wooden gate emblazoned with MCG make it a site to see.


Lovely day at Merton. I bet on four of the six races, for a winner and three seconds. Even better was our friend Raven, who’s not a regular punter. She struck a purple patch, starting with Purple Perfection, in the first. Raven picking winners and placings with apparent ease, had a great start to her New Year.


Any way enough of me. Wishing all the Almanackers a happy, safe 2018,and of course “Happy Punting!”.




  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Glen, what a disappointment to be there and have your horse scratched!
    I’d love to see the Merton Racecourse with the cricket ground inside it.
    Great to see you backed a winner.

  2. Ta Luke, yes when ever i’m on track my horse doesn’t do well. As they say, there’s always the next race.

    Yes Merton is intriguing, with the entrance to the cricket ground being a high wooden gate, and the letters MCG across it.

    All the best for 2018 Luke.


  3. Peter Warrington says

    Used to love the meets up/down there, always a fan of the Freyers and their great bush horses that could win in the cities, the great Prince Tone, Trev Cent, In the Field, Barrakee, Sirs Knight and Talaq, and then the great regret story that was Leica Falcon. (He should have been the Colt from Old Regret.)

    We got out of gaol with Prince Tone at Canberra in the National Sprint, the day after Fraser lost. It is one of the great memories of that part of my life.

    And it was with much sadness that I learned of Richard Freyer’s death, too young, late last year. If in doubt, back Freyer’s horses, at Corowa, Albury or in town. It’s up to son Rick to keep the flame alive now.

    And then there is smelly B O Cox and his Wangaratta raiders, your man Honeychurch and der, yes, Duryea.

    Add to that the great Rabbitoh Terry Fahey and his occasional forays around Dubbo.

    I have no punting interest any more and no connection to any of these places, other than as an observer and occasional passer through (as it happens, we passed by Manikato’s place heading for SA the week he died, RIP, champ!)

    It just gives me great pleasure to know the regions are alive and people are still having a crack.

    (we left Port Macquarie on NY Day to head home and the races were just about to kick off. Were I alone, I may have strayed from the road, just to watch and mingle, and eat fish and chips on one of the racecourse frilly paper plates, and sip warm beer and admire the emus traipsing through checking the discarded tickets.)

  4. Ta Pete, yes it was sad, the passing of Richard. A damn good bush trainer, as was his father Jack.

    BO Cox and his team from Wodonga are not currently around. Mr Cox got a lengthy ‘holiday’ for conduct unbecoming to his horses, and RV employees. Craig Widdison, also in Wodonga,has picked up many of his runners.

    You can’t beat a good day at the bush races. What’s that cliche, “Country Racing, it’s a great day out.” Cliched, though true.

    Enjoy your 2018 Peter.


  5. Peter Warrington says

    Wow. Cox by name…

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