Day At The Track

All's well that ends well

01:57 PM 09 Oct 2018 NZDT
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DRIVERS Mitchell Turnbull and Trent Rue played the leading roles in the three-act drama - otherwise known as the Bathurst Shootout Final - that played out before an appreciative and vocal crowd right into horsepower, at Gold Crown Paceway on Friday night.

The $12,000 final was the much-anticipated highlight of the mini-carnival held in conjunction with the famous Bathurst 1000 Race Week conducted at Mount Panorama, close by the Paceway’s home turn.

Act One of the drama consisted of the two preceding races, a fast-class and a C1 sprint, both events taken out in accomplished fashion by Mitchell Turnbull with Smithstars Lexus and Grosestar, respectively.

Smithstars Lexus enjoyed a lovely trail behind favourite Royal Story, Mitchell biding his time before angling into the sprint lane and reaching the lead in the shadows of the post for a copybook win.

It continued his strong association in recent months with a horse he nominates as his favourite, not just for their six wins in that time but also because “ he’s such a perfect, easy horse to drive.”

Grosestar crossed favourite Lets Pop The Bubbles NZ at the start, poured the pressure on through a 56.6s final half, and found plenty when needed to hold that horse close to the line, with Mitchell’s salute indicating his delight at getting the win against big sister Amanda.

Act One finished on a light-hearted note, with Mitch speculating that John Starr, prominent real-estate figure and the owner of both horses, might like to give him the keys to a house rather than a Christmas card this year.

That mood suddenly darkened at the start of the Shootout Final.

The mobile had delivered the field at a very quick clip to the top of the home straight for the 1200 metres dash, with most -but not all - of them looking for a flying start.

Just after release, Switowski, drawn out in six, leapt very extravagantly out of his gear and hit the deck, throwing Mitchell Turnbull out of the bike and into a somersault with pike that would do a gymnast proud. Back to earth with a thud, quite literally, for Mitchell.

With his horse back on its feet and beginning to take off up the straight, Mitch sprinted to intercept him, blocking his escape, and when the horse wheeled and headed the other way, he was able to grab him finally, keeping control of one very panicky horse until he was joined by one of the clerks. 

Stewards activated the no-race siren, and the field was assisted to a stop by the other clerk over at the home turn.

The young reinsman’s outstanding horsemanship - along with his quick thinking and concern for the rest of the field -  was praised by everyone who watched the drama unfold, particularly fellow trainers and drivers who appreciated just how badly it all could have turned out.

Switowski failed to pass a vet’s examination and was withdrawn from the subsequent re-run, but in a nice touch, Mitch Turnbull’s horsemanship earned him the Drive-of-the-Night award from racecaller Craig Easey.

After all that excitement, and a 20-minute delay, Act Three might easily have fizzled out to be a real anti-climax. It proved to be far from that.

Trent Rue, drawn the outside with Wrangler Duke, had been able to see what happened to Switowski, managed to get past him safely, and then didn’t push his horse at all, believing that the race might indeed be called off.

That, in fact, had been his intention all along, and explained why he’d deliberately run a slow time-trial two nights earlier, knowing that with only eight triallists he was guaranteed a start, and from the outside, he could drop his horse out of the early speed and save him.

He adopted exactly the same tactics in the re-run, dropping out and sitting at the tail of the field as Our Chittybangbang NZ flew the arm to cross Izzy Watt before the corner, with Sabrage NZ gaining the one-one trail when Bradness Eldefuego worked forward to the death.

Quarters of 26.8s and 28.6s , and this for the second time in 20 minutes, left the leaders vulnerable, and they appeared to be out on their feet as they straightened, which is when Wrangler Duke and Kapow Shannon ( Amy Rees, drawn in six), the fresh horses on the scene, made their runs down the centre of the track. 

Wrangler Duke won, seemingly with something in reserve, and Sabrage fought on doggedly to retain third place. The final quarter of 30.0s - for an overall time of 1:25.4 and a mile rate of 1:54.7- was the slowest, and indicated just what a slogging finish it was.

Full marks to Trent Rue, who conceived a plan for the race and executed it perfectly, notwithstanding that circumstances might have played right into his hands.

He trains the horse for himself, wife Amy, and Amy’s  parents Tony and Colleen Hagney. It was a delighted group, complete with the grandkids, which celebrated their biggest win with Gary and Barry Rogers, whose Gary Rogers  Racing Team was represented in the Top Ten Shootout over on the mountain the following day.

Tony Hagney is track curator at Gold Crown Paceway and, along with his brother Michael, also serves as a clerk-of-the-course. He wouldn’t have had any time during that incident-charged first run to observe his horse, but the wide grin on his face at the presentation suggested that things panned out perfectly the second time around.

As a famous playwright might have put it, All’s Well That Ends Well.


TERRY NEIL

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