Day At The Track

Brooke Wilkins hopes her 7 finalists will run

01:36 PM 25 Mar 2020 NZDT
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Brooke Wilkins
CHASING GOLD: Brooke Wilkins has seen seven of the horses she is in charge of at the Gold Crown Carnival qualify for Group 1 finals
Amy Rees Photo

Imagine qualifying seven harness racing Group 1 finalists at the Bathurst Gold Crown Carnival but not being sure if they will get the chance to run.

That is the situation that Brooke Wilkins finds herself in.

On Tuesday morning Wilkins, who is looking after the Gold Crown Carnival hopefuls of Victorian trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin, used the word "insane" to describe her fortunes.

She had little idea that it would become even more apt later that afternoon.

It was on Tuesday afternoon that Harness Racing NSW temporarily suspended meetings in the state after it was revealed an industry participant was in direct contact with a person confirmed to have contracted the COVID-19 virus.

The suspension was put in place until Thursday, at which stage the results of medical testing should become available.

All those involved with the sport - Wilkins amongst them - hope the test is negative and racing can go ahead.

If it does, Saturday night could be one the 22-year-old long remembers.

It was just over three years ago that Wilkins was celebrating the first winning drive of career, saluting aboard $17 chance Hezbuyindiamonds at Penrith.

It was a proud moment and one that eased some pressure too given she followed in the footsteps of her father David and late grandfather Bill in becoming involved in the harness racing industry.

Back then she worked for David Aitken's stable, but now she is assisting Stewart and Tonkin.

Wilkins has eight of their horses with her out at The Lagoon, where she is based for the Gold Crown Carnival.

Her job with the Victorian stable - one which has ranked top three nationally for the last four consecutive seasons - began just over two months ago.

"I was training my own team at Menangle, but I saw the job come up down there and it was a pretty good job, so I thought I may as well go and do it now while I am still young and still can," she said.

"Unfortunately Emma and Clayton can't come up with all the [COVID-19] restrictions, even our drivers Greg Sugars and Chris Alford, they can't make it either due to the border being shut.

"I said to them 'You might just have to send a bigger team up and I'll stay up here'," she added with a laugh.

But jokes aside, Wilkins can take credit for helping to qualify a remarkable seven finalists. All of them were heat winners as well.

Joanna and Dangerous Hand will line up in the Gold Tiara Final for two-year-old fillies, while Amelia Rose qualified for the three-year-old fillies Gold Bracelet decider.

FINE FILLY: Amelia Rose has qualified for the final of the three-year-old Gold Bracelet. She will be driven by The Lagoon's Amanda Turnbull.

 FINE FILLY: Amelia Rose has qualified for the final of the three-year-old Gold Bracelet. She will be driven by The Lagoon's Amanda Turnbull.

 

With the colts and geldings, Wilkins watched as Ideal Dan and Idyllic qualified for the two-year-old Gold Crown Final, while both Mac Dan and Yianni earned their spot in the Gold Chalice Final for three-year-olds.

It was a string of results Wilkins had not anticipated.

"They are all nice enough, especially the two-year-olds, but I wouldn't say they're the best two-year-olds we had in the stable," she said.

"They all had bad draws for their heats, I don't think any of them drew good, so they all had to do a bit of work and were up against it, but yeah, they've done good.

"They are all pretty even, the two boys, I don't think you could split them. They actually raced each other their very first start, Ideal Dan beat Idyllic but it was only just.

"To have have that amount of horses qualify is amazing and just to be there on the night amongst that calibre of horses is just insane."

While admitting the carnival feels different this year without the bumper crowds creating atmosphere - a spectator ban is in place due to the coronavirus - she would still love to be hoisting a trophy come Saturday night.

"I have been up here for the carnival nearly every year since I was real young, the Gold Crown is a race I'd love to win," she said.

"I'd love to just get a trophy, just one would be good."

By Anya Whitelaw

Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate

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