Day At The Track

80/1 'buzzer beater' has Hellen grinning

04:00 PM 23 Jul 2019 NZST
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Hellen Scott, harness racing
Albury trainer Hellen Scott with recent longshot winner Grinning Punter
Cobram HRC Photo

Former talented Melbourne basketballer Hellen Scott is now shooting the lights out in the harness racing world.

Scott, who has a team of 10 pacers in work at Albury, produced 80/1 longshot Grinning Punter to score a last-stride victory (a “buzzer-beater” in basketball parlance) at Wagga’s Riverina Paceway last Friday afternoon.

Grinning Punter (Grinfromeartoear-Lucy Lynne (Christian Cullen) upset his more fancied rivals in the $6890 Pace for horses with a national rating up to 69. The gelding was driven a treat by concession driver Chris Judd, with the pair going wide on the home turn and arriving just in time in a blanket finish.

Scott played for the Melbourne Tigers back in the 1980s under her maiden name Hellen Fewkes and had an awesome career representing Victoria in the sport.

Hellen’s mum didn’t have a car licence, so public transport was the only option to get to training sessions.  The devoted youngster would travel by train from the family home at Faulkner to Melbourne, and then make her way to Albert Park.

Hellen and her husband John left city life behind and made Albury their home in 1993, but Hellen was not lost to basketball, staying involved through coaching at schools up until this year when funding was cut.

While John works with a landscape business, Hellen and their 19-year-old son Baily take care of horse training duties.

John said seven-year-old gelding Grinning Punter had promised “to be anything” when he was purchased a few years ago from New Zealand by a group of keen owners.

“The times he was capable of doing were just crazy.  He showed his potential at the old Wagga track by winning in 1.57 with a last half of 56.6 seconds. I thought he could win a city race without any problems,” John said.

“But unfortunately, he ran into a patch of bad luck, firstly developing a heart murmur (an abnormal sound that originates from the heart valves), then fracturing a cannon bone when we sent him up to Sydney to be trained, which meant a long spell.

“We’ve had him checked by vets and the heart is normal now, but he’s not going anywhere near like he was two-and-a-half years ago.”

John said however Grinning Punter had been showing pleasing form leading up to his boil-over victory.

“There’s no way the horse should have been those odds. He’d been quite good with a few placings and then wasn’t comfortable on the Albury track,” he said.

“One of the owners Sandy Taylor was in the United States and somehow had some money on each way at 40/1, so she was very excited. Sandy and her husband Price and his brother go to the races and watch the horse whenever they can because it’s their first venture into the sport.

“The other owners are Craig English, Glenn Teesdale and his son Jarman, and successful jockey Simon Miller and they’re also keen supporters.”

The Scott team plans to keep racing Grinning Punter in suitable races at country tracks on a regular basis over the next few months.

“He has never adjusted to the Australian heat and always goes better in winter and spring,” John said.

“Baily is just busting to get his driver’s licence after doing a lengthy apprenticeship at the stables at home. Let’s hope when that time comes, he clicks with Grinning Punter and there’s some more longshot winners!”

*Hoofnote: Grinning Punter finished a close-up second at Wagga yesterday paying a healthy place dividend of $3.60.


Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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