It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

27 December 2017 | Terry Neil
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All smiles . . . connections of Charlaval following his win in the Shirley Turnbull Memorial at Bathurst on Tuesday night.

All smiles . . . connections of Charlaval following his win in the Shirley Turnbull Memorial at Bathurst on Tuesday night.

THE weather might have been unseasonably chilly but the racing action was quite the opposite for the bumper crowd in attendance at the Bathurst Gold Crown Paceway’s Carnival of Cups meeting on Boxing Night.

Everyone was in agreement that it was the best night’s racing they had ever seen at the time-honoured fixture.

Real depth in every field made for super-competitive racing, evidenced by brilliant times in every race, with three sub - 1:55 runs and track records in the two feature races.

Menangle couple KerryAnn Turner and Robbie Morris caused a minor upset in the $50,000 Group Two Shirley Turnbull Memorial, with Charlaval handing up to race favourite Bling It On, then producing a withering sprint to overhaul the millionaire close to the line.

Bling It On’s third quarter of 27.4 seconds was stamped “catch me if you can”, and the closing sectional of 29 seconds brought up a mile rate of 1:58.2 for the 2790 metres trip, only the second race of that distance, and the first for pacers, at the Gold Crown Paceway.

It was a first win in the prestigious race for Robbie Morris, who grew up listening to his father Peter’s stories about racing against A.D. Turnbull, and the second successive win in the event for his wife Kerryann, who trained and drove Aztec Bromac to success in 2016.

Harness Racing New South Wales Chairman Rod Smith, whose Kriden Investments sponsored the event, made the presentation to close friend and long-time supporter of the Morris and Turner stables, Daniel Cordina, who clearly enjoyed what was one of his most satisfying wins in the sport.

The other feature race, the Ray and Olive McCarthy Memorial, drew an outstanding field of 3C0/3C1 fillies, and produced a new track record for that class when Major Occasion maintained its unbeaten record this season with a dominant performance.

The Art Major daughter, a Vicbred champion at two, did plenty of work before putting paid to favourite and leader Miss Keesha NZ, then holding off a late charge from Callmequeenbee.

Closing quarters of 27.9 and 28.8 seconds rounded out a mile rate of 1:54.8, taking almost half a second from the standard set in the corresponding race last year by 3YO filly-of-the-year Don’t Think Twice.

The win brought up a race-to-race double for Chris and Anthony Frisby, following an exceptional win by Our Uncle Sam ( a first emergency for the Shirley Turnbull ) in the fast-class sprint.

After sitting in the death throughout, “Sam” gassed the field with a 27.1 seconds third quarter and held on strongly in 28.7 for a mile rate of 1:53.5, second best of the night.

Chris is the brother-in-law of Steve Turnbull, who trained and drove Conviction to a fine win in the C1 opening race, showing strength and determination to come over the top of his rivals in an energy-sapping 1:53.3, which had been the track record up until this year’s Gold Crown carnival.

“That takes the pressure off for the night,” he commented, very much aware of the significance of the night for all of his family, and their desire to mark the occasion with race success.

He joined with other family members - sister Cindy Rixon the owner, and daughter Amanda the driver - in a stunning win by Belligerence, in a C1/C2 mares event.

Sent three wide at the bell, the Mach Three daughter was forced to remain there for the rest of the trip, and showed exceptional endurance to hold on for a wonderful win, rated by many as the best of the meeting.

Her driver, explaining that the mare doesn’t chase very well but loves fighting off horses coming at her, indicated that she had just needed the “posse “to come from behind to fire her mare up, and that she was confident once that occurred.

“I actually think she enjoyed that run,” was Amanda’s summary of the 1:55.5 three wide performance!

If the Turnbull/Frisby families enjoyed success on “their” night, it was equally appropriate that the McCarthy clan did also, with Luke successful on two Craig Cross runners  at either end of the night.

Zahven Banner NZ caused an upset in the C0 second, coming with a well-timed run to grab favourite War Dan right on the line, in the night’s closest finish that left even his driver unsure of the result.

In the final race of the night,  three-year-old filly Darkershadeofpale NZ, on debut in Australia, justified her short quote by working round to the lead and coming away for the easiest of wins, looking very capable of tackling the Raith Memorial and other good races that the stable has in mind for her.

Whittaker NZ , which maintained his unbeaten status in four Bathurst runs for Ash Grives with a 55.4 seconds closing half of a 2260 metres C2/C3 event, and Stanley Ross Robyn NZ, which threw in a 26.6 third quarter  in a fast-class sprint before bolting away for David Hewitt, were the other winners for the visitors.

It truly was a night of exceptional racing, with every event vying for “best race “ honours until it was trumped by the very next one.

As someone wise once said, you just had to be there!