Day At The Track

Nathan Turnbull eying Gold Chalice series

04:29 PM 14 Mar 2016 NZDT
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Nathan Turnbull - Is really looking forward to the Gold Chalice Series at Bathurst
Nathan Turnbull - Is really looking forward to the Gold Chalice Series at Bathurst

Lagoon harness racing trainer Nathan Turnbull has been looking forward to the Gold Chalice series at the Alabar Gold Crown Carnival with his promising three-year-old Sams The Master, the current track record-holder at Group One Feeds Paceway at Bathurst.

But following the win of Sams Express in the $18,000 Sales Graduate Final at the track last Wednesday, he and owner Rod Smith will have more than a passing interest in the 2YO Colts and Geldings Gold Crown, hoping to improve on the older Sam's  desperately close third in last year's final.
Play it again Sam, just a tiny bit better.

Sams Express ($13.40 ) was positioned in the one-one by Steve Turnbull, and after the leader Lockton Luck tried to break up the field with a sharp 28.2 third quarter, Sams Express asserted his authority on straightening, and outstayed favourite Machgower, which had tracked him throughout, and Outta Crossgar, which came along the sprint lane for a good third.

The closing quarter of 29.7 completed a mile rate of 1:57.9 for the 1730 metres trip

By Dawn Ofa New Day from a half-sister to APG champion Rosa Mach, he was a $10,500 purchase by Smith at last year's Bathurst Sale, and his win will no doubt draw attention to his Artistic Fella half-brother, an early lot in the 2016 sale, to be held this coming Sunday.

Fastestgirlintown ($1.50 favourite ) led throughout for Dennis Picker to score easily in the corresponding fillies final last Wednesday, zipping home in 57.0 seconds for her last half, to match that 1:57.9 overall mile rate.

On the pegs proved the place to be, with The Secrt Mouse finishing strongly from three back to just edge out trailer Begoodorbegoodatit for second.

The Sportswriter filly was a $13,000 buy last year, and the win brought off a notable double for her dam Bushy Tail, whose previous foal Bright Eyed was successful in the same race last season.

Fastestgirlintown takes a record of three wins from four starts into Thursday's Gold Tiara heats, and there's no doubt she'll be very competitive in the series.

Her Crookwell connections, who had a deal of fun in naming her, will be hoping she's not just the quickest from that town, but the swiftest at Bathurst also.

Two additional 2YO races were run on Wednesday, to cater for connections requiring the necessary start before the Crown series.

They were won by Rainbow On Fire ($6.40, Steve Turnbull, who made it a treble with Dillon in the following race ), and San Domino ($1.30 favourite, Ben Settree/ Mat Rue ), who matched the 1:57.6 mile rate of that winner, in a dominant display.

In the opening C1-C2 event, won by Geoff Simpson's tough customer Puffnstuff ($9.00), a nasty fall resulted in popular reinswoman Casey Williams being transported to hospital for precautionary X-Rays.

Clerk-of-the-course Tony Hagney displayed wonderful horsemanship and courage in extracting the driverless The Escape Plan from the field, to impress on everyone just how vital that role is, and how we should never take it for granted.

Bathurst HRC officials were delighted by the strong entries for the Crown and Tiara, with a total of 140 youngsters paid up, well in excess of last year's figures, and a pleasant surprise in these days of declining foal numbers.

Numbers for the Chalice and Bracelet 3YO series are a touch lower this year, with 76 final payments, but they're not lacking for class - last year's Crown and Tiara winners Shadow Runner and Pixies Parlour are back to defend their titles, and they'll face strong challenges from the likes of Charlaval, Power Of Red, Fouroeight, Sams The Master, Art Mistress, Cherry Mahoney, and a number of others.

"The best week in harness racing" gets underway on Wednesday night, with heats of the Honouree Stakes, followed by Tiara heats Thursday and Crown heats on Saturday, then Chalice and Bracelet  heats on Monday, Ladies Night Wednesday and the bumper Finals Night on Saturday week, featuring the Group One Crown and Tiara finals, and the Group Finals for the Chalice and Bracelet.

The Gold Crown Yearling Sale takes place next Sunday, and the Honourees Dinner( for the McCarthy family ) on Tuesday night, plus the Golf Day and the Cocktail Party, both on Thursday, complete a wonderful time in the home of juvenile racing.

Terry Neil

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