Day At The Track

"Earl" is back with all guns ablazin'

03:00 PM 09 Aug 2019 NZST
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The Newberry family,Harness racing
The Newberry family with Just Call Me Earl after his second win back, at wet and chilly Shepparton

When 11-year-old Kiwi bred square-gaiter Just Call Me Earl didn't fire a shot at Cobram earlier this year, the Newberry harness racing family decided it was the end of the road.

"We were all disappointed because we wanted him to win one more and finish his career with 20 wins - but he really struggled, tired pretty badly and finished 50 metres from the winner," reinsman Matt Newberry said.

"So, when we got home, dad (John) took the horse off the truck and put him straight out into the paddock," he said.

"A friend later offered to take him as a hack, but that didn't work out because then she couldn't find room for him. After a few weeks we noticed he was bolting around the paddock and always seemed to be up at the gate waiting for us to come and get him.

"It was then we decided to give him another go and see if he could regain some form."

Newberry said Just Call Me Earl had worked well leading up to his first run back from "retirement" at Shepparton on July 28 from the 20metre handicap.

"We thought at best he might sneak a place - we were all gobsmacked when he came out and recorded a strong win, running away from his rivals," he said.

"I was three back on the pegs early and then got into the one-out line. I got a trail forward and sat outside the leader for the last 500 metres, then he burst clear to win by eight metres as rank outsider at 20/1."

And sure enough, there was plenty of excitement in the Newberry camp with Just Call Me Earl (Earl CA-Shine On Alisha NZ (Sundon USA) getting to that elusive 20 wins from 219 starts.

But the veteran campaigner had other ideas and wasn't stopping there!

Just Call Me Earl fronted up at Shepparton last Wednesday night in the JD. Contractors Trotters Handicap and scored an all-the-way win to prove the previous one wasn't a fluke.

"We weren't overly confident as he was in a terrible mood before the race. He was grumpy as ever, biting and kicking and that's certainly not his usual behavior," Newberry said.

"Dad was unsure of our race tactics and in the end we decided to jump to the front and try and do very little work."

Just Call Me Earl was rated to a nicety by Newberry with consistent splits of 31, 32, 30 and 30 to score by 1.7m from Nica MacDonon and a further eight metres back to Levina.

His record now stands at 220 starts for 21 wins and 49 placings for over $142,000.

The old timer was bred by his owners John and Maree Newberry, of Bunbartha, and John's parents, Gordon and Norma, who are retired and live in New Zealand.

Newberry has been working with his father John, a highly-regarded horseman, for the past 10 years.

"It's a real family affair because mum does a lot behind the scenes. We have nine in work at the moment with probably six or seven ready to come back in soon. We love it out here at Bunbartha, about 20 minutes from Shepparton. Our property is 130 acres and we have a 800 metre track," he said.

Newberry said Just Call Me Earl's latest win was an early birthday present.

"I'm 25 this Friday. In the past I've won twice on the day of my birthday, so I've been lucky. I'd love a belated present at Melton (with two-year-old trotter Feeling Enerjetic) on Saturday night, but that's maybe asking a little too much!" he said.

And there's sure to be a big fan club at Shepparton next Tuesday night as Just Call Me Earl tries to make it a hat-trick of wins after a remarkable comeback.


Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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