With the $500,000 Newhaven Country Championship Final fast approaching, it seemed only poetic justice that one of last year’s local representatives, Shelley Beach Road, would prove victorious in the Carlton Dry Open Handicap at Port Macquarie on Thursday.
Despite a luckless performance behind Lucciola Belle in the recent Mid North Coast Qualifier, the daughter of Shellscrape was sent to the barrier as race favourite and didn’t let down her supporters, which include many prominent local personalities headed by Port Club president, Greg Delaforce.
Even part owner and Chief Executive Officer, Michael Bowman, couldn’t hide his excitement as Shelley Beach Road arrested the lead from Dreamalina and was able to withstand the finishing burst of Alot Like Home and Golden Comet to land the prize by a decisive margin.
The victory was a small reward and a real confidence booster for the mare with recent performances far better than the form guides would indicate and plenty of credit attributed to the patience and perseverance of trainer, John Sprague.
Popular local apprentice, Cejay Graham, positioned Shelley Beach Road on the outside of Kopite and was able to obtain a tag in the race behind Dreamalina before racing clear in the home straight for an impressive success.
Victory took the daughter of Backwherewebelong’s record to nineteen starts for six wins and six minor placings with amassed stake earnings of around $130,000.
The Kris Lees and Andrew Gibbons combination held the training and riding honours respectively with a race day double and the stable could have unearthed a rising star in the shape of Itz Lily.
The Stitzel filly raced clear in the distance event on the program to account for Luddenham Lass and Gacela with the victory by just under two lengths providing a catalyst for the mapping of an ambitious Queensland Winter campaign.
The other winner from the Lees yard, Rothman, came with a well-timed run to clear away from Lucky For Some and Lightsontheharbour in breaking his maiden status while Arrogante was extremely impressive for Kristen Buchanan in the opening event.
Vivre La Vie was responsible for an outstanding performance when saluting for the Neil Godbolt stable in race three after being trapped wide while The Drake returned Jenny Graham to the winner’s circle at her home track later in the day.
Sarasota Bay indicated a win wasn’t far away when a recent placing behind Splash of Lime and supporters were rewarded when the Roy Franklin trained mare landed good wagers in taking out the Benchmark 66 Hcp while Ondo Pasa slipped along the rails when scoring in the last.
Racing was conducted under inclement skies on a soft track, which provided a uniform surface giving every horse a competitive chance of success.
Horses were winning on the speed or from behind with ground being made up down the outside of the course or closer to the fence as indicated when Ondo Pasa landed the prize for Stan Thomas in the final race.
Racing continues for the club with Master Builders Race Day on March 22 followed by a full TAB and Sky program on March 30 to coincide with all the great racing action on Tancred Stakes day at Rosehill.