Sky Flacon gave teenager Holly Newson her first win as a driver at Bathurst on January 4.
Doubles from leading stables and wins by high- profile horses made for an interesting evening, but they all took a back seat to a win by an Oberon teenager at last Wednesday's Group One Feeds Paceway Bathurst meeting.
Holly Newson scored her first driving win, with outsider Sky Falcon NZ in a C3/C5 sprint, and the reaction from the crowd, particularly a large Oberon supporters group that rushed to the fence to celebrate, gave it the feel of a Gold Crown or Tiara win.
Every young driver's debut win is a memorable occasion, but this one seemed unusually special.
Newson led early with the Wade Judd-trained gelding before handing up, and after a sweet trip in the trail, she angled into the sprint lane, balanced up, then drove desperately to poke through in the last couple of strides, just edging out Black Poles which loomed up late in the straight.
The familiar description " a winning smile " doesn't adequately convey the look on Holly's face as she brought her first winner back to scale.
If the look was utter delight, her dedication of the win - " to my boyfriend, who passed away just recently " - indicated the full significance of the moment, and the reason for the crowd reaction.
Jack Fenton, her boyfriend, had been Holly's constant companion at the races and her biggest supporter, along with her parents Tim and Vic. He and a mate died in a car accident not far from Oberon, just as Holly was dealing with all the stresses of her HSC examinations.
Through all of this, Holly has displayed a remarkable resilience and maturity well beyond her years, and won herself many admirers from her town and the wider harness racing community.
To cap off a memorable night, she picked up racecaller Mitch Manners' Drive Of The Night award, for a performance that was classy in every way.
Those other winners referred to at the top of this story were:
Uncle Peter, in C1 grade, and Our Uncle Sam in a 3YO sprint, for Chris and Anthony Frisby, both leading throughout, the latter in 1:55.8 with a 56.4 last half. The stable had a frustrating time of it on Carnival of Cups Boxing Night, but made up for it here
Strawberry Stride NZ, in a 3YO Fillies sprint, and Comet Stride in C 0 company, for Craig Cross and Luke McCarthy, who indicated plans to start Strawberry Stride, a magnificently-bred filly which cost a cool $165K at the 2015 NZ sales, in the upcoming Raith Memorial after her all-the-way win here
Sams The Master, the shortest-priced winner of the meeting at $1.30 in a C2 sprint, and the biggest winning margin of 19 metres, after closing quarters of 27.0 and 27.7 seconds for a sharp 1:55.1 rate, with trainer-driver Nathan Turnbull confirming plans to head to a Chariots of Fire heat, via the Tom Hewitt Memorial coming up at Goulburn
Puffnstuff, in a C1-backed conditioned sprint, for Geoff Simpson and claiming driver Mitch Turnbull, who had no hesitation in working the well-graded gelding to the death seat, and using his staying ability to score his ninth win, taking him past $50K in stakes.
Bathurst race again on Friday, January 20, with the popular Oberon Community Cup night, but last Wednesday was an Oberon night as well, and one of those times you feel privileged to be part of harness racing.