Day At The Track

Big night for Mitch Turnbull

06:35 PM 19 Dec 2016 NZDT
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Mitch Turnbull
Mitch Turnbull

Young reinsman Mitch Turnbull scored his first hometown harness racing feature and brother Josh continued on his recent winning run when they combined to take out last Friday's Bathurst RSL Soldiers Saddle Final at Group One Feeds Paceway.

Bacchus Raucous ($8.20) stayed out of the early speed burn before working his way around the field to the ‘death seat’ from where Mitchell maintained a strong even tempo with the Kenneth J gelding, before slipping into top gear over a final quarter of 28.8 seconds and a winning mile rate of 1:58.7 for the 2260m trip.

Angela Hedges brought Ned Pepper with a well-timed run to fight out a very close finish and Hey Porsha finished strongly to grab the minor place.

The winner is raced by Jess Turnbull, wife of the trainer, and close friends Pete Crennan and Nigel Frisby, and it was a delighted group of connections and children who celebrated the win trackside.

Mitch was quick to acknowledge the training effort of his brother, commenting " there were 110 problems with him when we got him from the sales" - a $7,500 buy at the 2013 Gold Crown Sale - " but Josh has just about got him sorted now, and he's racing very consistently."

It will be interesting to follow his progress as he seeks to match the record of previous Soldiers Saddle winners such as Saint William, Avonnova and Saloon Passage.

Doubles and trebles were the order of the meeting, with a further driving win for Mitch Turnbull, a training double for Chris Frisby, and a training/driving treble for Craig Cross and Luke McCarthy in the final three races of the night.

Mitch warmed up for the feature by scoring a last-stride win with War Dan Apollo ($2.90 favourite, for father Steve in the C3-C5 third, coming from well back in a very strongly run race. Isle Of Man was a gallant second, after a tough trip.

Chris Frisby's double came in the opening races, with Alpha Styx ($1.90 favourite, Anthony Frisby) in C1-C2 class, tagging up three-wide and running down leader Soeur De Lyse which had kicked well clear on straightening and then Uncle John ($2.20 favourite, Jason Grimson) in the Soldiers Saddle Consolation, showing his customary toughness by sitting in the ‘death eat’ and defying Wicker Maister which was posted three-wide to run him down.

Mach Doro and a pair of maiden three-year-olds in Alpine Stride and Olive Stride made up the Craig Cross/ Luke McCarthy treble, in quite contrasting styles.

Mach Doro ($1.40 favourite) was allowed to bide his time at the tail of the field in the 2260m fast class before Luke set him alight just after the bell and he charged to the lead as they entered the back straight, maintaining the speed in a brilliant 27.3 third quarter, and then hanging on grimly to outstay Im Cool Harry which came again after being headed.

It was a brilliant drive, on a horse his driver rates very highly, and which may return for the Shirley Turnbull Memorial on Boxing Night.

Alpine Stride ($5.80) led all-the-way in a 2260m C0 grade, and Olive Stride ($25.50) which used the sprint lane to score by the proverbial nose in a 3C0 sprint, maintained their parallel career paths in winning.

They commenced racing on the same night back in March, had their second runs just a week apart in April, then spelled at owner Emilio Rosati's property for about five months before resuming here together, with happy results.

Alpine Stride boasts champion mare Tailamade Lombo as his dam, while Olive Stride recalls the name of another champion in Luke's grandmother, who will be honoured in the Ray and Olive McCarthy Memorial at the Boxing Night feature meeting. Luke would have been tickled by this win.

A very big crowd attended Friday's meeting, with a number of Christmas parties in full swing in different parts of the venue, and Peter Turnbull making his annual visit as Santa Claus to distribute lollies to the kids. They all know Santa's alter ego, and check with him during the night what time he'll be donning the red and white clobber!

And on that note, Happy Christmas to everyone in harness racing from the management and staff of Bathurst HRC.

By Terry Neil

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