Wagga picnics offer battlers a chance

Tamworth jockey Brent Evans was rewarded for his eight-hour drive to Wagga on Saturday, leaving with three winners.

There may have been no crowd at Murrumbidgee Turf Club on Saturday but that didn’t stop an entertaining six-race picnic program from going ahead.

The meeting gave picnic trainers, owners and jockeys a chance to race, which was a godsend after a variety of community and picnic meetings were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Murrumbidgee Turf Club CEO Steven Keene was happy that his club could help the industry and those country participants.

“Today (Saturday) is about the racing, “ Keene said.

“We don’t make anything from today but we are happy to offer some racing to those picnic horses and jockeys.”

Keene did thank Racing NSW for covering the costs of the meeting, explaining it would not have been possible without the governing bodies support.

“Racing NSW are covering everything, we are just hosting the meeting,” Keene said.

“It is good they offered to do this, especially with all the meetings that have been cancelled recently.”

Under strict Racing NSW guidelines, only essential personnel were allowed into the meeting, while on-course wagering was even cancelled.

Off-course wagering did occur though, with Mark Johnstone’s www.southerncrossbet.com.au, covering the meeting for owners and punters alike.

“We just wanted to get involved and give owners a chance to back their horses,” Johnstone said.

“On the day, we had owners creating accounts and backing their horses, which is what this endeavor was all about.”

In the first event, the 1660m Class B Handicap, the Todd Smart trained Stardux almost got the win, running a close second to Barcoo Bill from the Gino D’Altorio stable.

Scandinavian jockey Julia Presits rode the Strada mare a treat, coming from off the pace for a 0.23 of a length win.

The second event was the 1200m Picnic Maiden Plate and the Mitchell Beer trained Desert Storm won convincingly.

Ridden by Tamworth jockey Brent Evans, the four-year-old Oasis Dream gelding won by 3.69 lengths from Sheeza Menzies for Trevor Sutherland for Miss Verne for Luke Pepper.

Corazon De Oro was the most convincing winner on the day, bolting in for a 6.64 length win in the 1200m Class Two Trophy Handicap.

Prepared by Wagga trainer Chris Heywood, Brent Evans eased the six-year-old Al Maher mare to the line over Miss Matriarch for Luke Pepper and Zou York for David Kelley.

Canberra trainer Neil Osbourne trained Metro Missile to win race four on the program, the Class B Handicap over 1150m.

The five-year-old Smart Missile mare, who was ridden by Jody Hughes, won comfortably by 1.99 lengths over Danetree Belle for Sarah Murray-Leslie and Empires Collide for Trevor Sutherland.

Jody Hughes earned her second winner on the program when Lutece won race five, the 1050m Picnic Maiden Plate.

The Luke Pepper runner won a thrilling affair, coming from well off the pace to pip Star For Effort for Allan McRae and Nicotic for Trevor Sutherland, who dead-heated for second.

In the final event, Anthony Warren trained his first ever winner when Storm Force won the 1050m Class One Trophy Handicap.

The $900,000 yearling purchase, which has had breathing issues, was a class above them in this event, winning by 2.52 lengths and a leg in the air over Fabulous Fran for Chris Heywood and Ashrad for Dan McCarthy.