Parra leads the way on Thanksgiving night

10 April 2018 | BATHURST MEDIA
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This novelty race where former mini trot drivers towed the current mini trot drivers was hugely popular at Bathurst's meeting last Friday.

This novelty race where former mini trot drivers towed the current mini trot drivers was hugely popular at Bathurst's meeting last Friday.

THE Rugby League team Parramatta Eels have struggled so far but their equine namesake is having no such problems, making it two wins from his last three starts when he scored in the fast-class sprint at Gold Crown Paceway last Friday.

In the G.J. & A.D. Turnbull Cup, the feature event at the annual Cathedral Parish Race Night, A.D.’s grandson Nathan was content to bide his time in the running line for as long as possible into the straight, before unleashing his horse’s customary big sprint.

Just as Parramatta and Saloon Passage, which had raced in the death throughout, knuckled down in a stride-for-stride battle to the wire, Turnbull could hear a rather ominous sound growing louder to his outside.

“Oh no, here she comes,” he couldn’t help thinking, as his sister Amanda charged into his vision, with an even bigger sprint behind Star Writer, turning it into a three-horse contest as they hit the line.

Opinions in the crowd were quite divided, as they were among the drivers themselves, but the scoreboard showed a win for Parramatta, in the centre, from the fast-finishing kid sister, with Saloon Passage, which did all the work in the 1:53.4 trip, deserving better than the minor place.

An unwell Tony Turnbull was represented at the race presentation by HRNSW Board member Peter Nugent, who was joined by the NSW Racing Minister Paul Toole, Bathurst Mayor Graeme Hanger and Bishop Michael McKenna, from Saints Michael and John Cathedral in Bathurst.

There was a Turnbull in the presentation group, however, with Parramatta’s owner Jenny Turnbull delighted to receive the gold cup from Bishop McKenna.

“All of us in the family just love this horse, he’s so honest and kind, and never puts in a bad effort,” she responded.

This fourth win for the season, and number 17 in a career of 77 starts, took the McArdle gelding’s earnings past the $150,000 mark. It was deserved for the owner as well, with Jenny and Steve having sponsored the earlier St Stanislaus College Pace.

The Stannies old boy took driving honours on the night, leading throughout with his own runner Always Rockin in a C1 sprint, and later using all his guile to coax a very reluctant Major Studleigh across the line for trainer Monica Betts in a maiden sprint.

Minister Toole had some welcome news for the club, and the large crowd watching on, announcing a NSW Government grant of $100,000 for the construction of a playground adjacent to the clubhouse, to cater for the increasing number of children who attend the complex as part of family groups.

There was a definite focus on youth at the meeting.

Students from local Catholic schools were involved in race presentations, and the crowd enjoyed a number of mini-trot races and a hugely popular novelty race, which saw eight of the younger male drivers (who are themselves graduates of the mini-trotting movement) towing the next generation of race drivers - Dwyers, Betts, Frisbys and a swag of Turnbulls - in a home straight sprint.

Doug Hewitt and Ella Turnbull held on for the win, just holding off Jed Betts who towed his whip-wielding sister Phoebe.

Doug, the youthful captain-coach of the Bathurst Panthers first grade league team, was adamant afterwards that he couldn’t possibly let Betts, a forward, beat him home or he would never live it down.

At the conclusion of the mini-trot races, the youngsters received their trophies from Doug’s parents Bernie and Cath Hewitt, who then surprised them with movie vouchers (with all the works) as a thank you for all the support and congratulations for their recent Gold Crown win with College Chapel. It was a lovely gesture.

Footnote: Races for this Wednesday’s meeting have been named for Ben and Jack Hagney, Jason Davis and Craig, Hudson and McCoy White, the local ‘sparkies’ whose efforts restored the power and saved the Gold Crown Finals Night from a postponement.