During December, several racing players have come by a variety of pre-festive season presents.
For starters, Oakfield Comanche brought more joy to his owners John and Kaylene Hamilton and jockey Hannah Phillips with a home track victory at Nanango on December 5.
The Dream Ahead (USA) gelding’s only two previous assignments had produced a Wondai Maiden win and a fourth placing on a soft surface at Dalby.
The on-pace performer has inherited his sire’s narrow white blaze.
Dream Ahead, Europe’s Champion sprinter in 2011, prevailed five times in Group One class in England and France.
The shuttle stallion fathered three elite level achievers in the northern hemisphere and eight black type winners in Australasia.
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Chris Meehan, an Irish horseman who has ridden over jumps and on the flat, may well have made a quiet whisper to Santa as he trekked from Beaudesert to the Lee Park program.
He certainly wished he could chalk up a winner on debut in Australia.
At day’s end, his two efforts had registered a third placing on Rockshore and a success, his first since May 2018, on Carlton Star.
The 26 year-old from County Meath near Dublin had the misfortune to be sidelined for long stints because of leg breakages in Italy and at home.
He has fully recovered and during his Down Under sojourn thus far, he has ridden trackwork for Robert Heathcote in Brisbane and currently works for Aquis Farm’s operation in the Scenic Rim.
Last Saturday, at Esk, Meehan continued his good work with a victory on Aberlady.
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The Nanango Jockeys Room echoed with cheering when Paul Hamblin booted home Hard Stride in the $50,000 Country Stampede Quality Final (1110m) at Doomben.
The $19 chance was prepared by Jason Judge, the Toowoomba conditioner who combined with the English jockey Sarah Eilbeck, to collect the 2014 Wondai Cup with Aashiq.
Hamblin, who led all the way from gate 16, was subsequently suspended for 13 days.
The ban, which expires at midnight on Christmas Day, was imposed because he checked Media Vita at the 900 metre mark and four other runners were hampered as a consequence.
In the $105,000 Country Cups Challenge Final on the same card, David Reynolds’ charge Rather Salubrious (Leeanne McCoy, $19) franked her Kumbia Cup winning form and earned $10,500 by finishing a stout third.
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The results of the four heats of the Burnett to the Valley Series decided at Eidsvold, Kumbia, Mount Perry and Nanango set up a fascinating final leg for Esk last weekend.
The competition was structured on a 3,2,1 points basis for the placegetters.
The pacesetter going into the last round, with five marks, was the Gympie galloper Wild Element.
Its trainer Cherie Vick (5) trailed Reynolds (7) while its jockey Robert Faehr (3) shared top spot with five other riders.
Reynolds was a potent challenger.
He saddled up Leeanne McCoy’s (3) mount Queenofmainstreet (3), Patche Gift with Shannyn Stephan (3) aboard, Run Pam Run (1) with Hannah Richardson (1) aboard and Music Scene with rookie Zac Llloyd in the pigskin.
Apprentice Ty Wheeler (3), who partnered Cullingworth (Ire), was also in the mix.
The first three to finish were Run Pam Run, Favulous (Girish Goomany) and Queenofmainstreet.
Although Wild Element was unplaced, he won the bonus prize of $3,000 and David Reynolds’ return was $1,000 while Hannah Richardson pocketed $500 on a countback from Leeanne McCoy.
Earlier at Dalby on December 14, Hannah and her husband Glenn took out the $17,000 Fillies and Mares BM 55 (1100m) with The Old Bird.
Maybe those planning a rather salubrious turkey dinner on December 25 copped the omen tip.
The daughter of He’s Remarkable was a $19 pop!
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Best Wishes To All
Right now, fingers are crossed and octopi should be interlocking their tentacles to bring luck to all and sundry in 2021.
Hopefully the incoming year will bear little resemblance to the current one.
Australia’s massive racing industry did astonishingly well to keep its economy ticking over.
Lessons learned from the Equine Influenza and Hendra Virus days would have helped to create the host of decisive policies and strategies that sustained the game’s major elements.
For many, the most haunting symbol of the calamity was the patron-free nature of the Melbourne Cup.
The financial and other ramifications of that situation indicated the depth of the losses endured by various components across the nation.
Do have a happy and safe festive period – see you at the track in 2021!