Sapphire Gambler impresses at Tas debut

27 November 2022 | Duncan Dornauf for Tasracing

Mangalore trainer Juanita McKenzie has had a good association with ex-Victorian pacers in recent years.

That trend looks set to continue after the win of Sapphire Gambler in Hobart on Friday evening.

The three-year-old gelded son of Betting Line was stepping out for the first time in McKenzie’s care after recording one win and eight placings from 18 Victorian starts.

Drifting in the market from $5 to $7.50, reinsman Charlie Castles utilised a good front-row draw to take up the lead before electing to take cover on the back of the race favourite Mayleejae Eagle.

The move paid to be a winning one, with Sapphire Gambler proving too quick along the Nutrien Sprint Lane in the home straight to record a 4.2m win.

“He went a little bit rough near the line, and Charlie (Castles) thought that he just tries to go too quick for himself when he lets down,” said McKenzie.

“I have only had him for about three or four weeks, the owners are good friends with Rohan Hillier and Grant Hodges, and they recommended me, which was very nice of them,” added the trainer.

With the pacers good gate speed, and a fast finishing sprint, McKenzie believes there are many more wins left in store for the pacer, who she says is one of the smallest horses she has trained.

“He is only about 13 hands. He is tiny, the smallest horse I have ever had,” she said.

McKenzie could not be trackside for the win due to work commitments, but it was a family affair with her son Jack Watson taking care of the pacer on race night.

“Jack took two horses to Launceston for me one night, and they both ran last, he was a bit hesitant taking this horse to the races on Friday as I was at work, and he was very excited after the race,” said McKenzie.

Watson, 24, had little interest in harness racing until recently, and he is about to obtain his license to drive in races, with only a couple more trial drives to be completed.


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