Day At The Track
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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.   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

HARNESS Racing New South Wales (HRNSW) Stewards conducted an inquiry yesterday into reports received from the Australian Racing Forensic Laboratory (ARFL) that synephrine had been detected in post-race urine samples obtained from the following horses: FUTURE STRIDE- following its win in Race 5 at Penrith on Thursday 29 March 2018; BACKINTHEGAME- following its win in Race 4 at Penrith on Thursday 3 May 2018. The ‘B’ samples were confirmed by Racing Analytical Services Limited (RASL) in Victoria. Ms Wilkins appeared at the inquiry and provided evidence of her husbandry practices. Evidence including the Reports of Analysis were presented, as well as analytical reports in relation to teff grass hay obtained from Ms Wilkins’ stable and plant samples from the Menangle Park Training Centre. HRNSW Regulatory veterinarian, Dr Martin Wainscott also provided evidence to the inquiry. Ms Wilkins pleaded guilty to two (2) charges issued pursuant to Rule 190 (1), (2) & (4) for presenting FUTURE STRIDE and BACKINTHEGAME to race not free of a prohibited substance, being synephrine. In respect of those charges, Stewards recorded a conviction, however, did not impose a penalty on Ms Wilkins as they were satisfied that the detection of synephrine had resulted from environmental contamination.  In considering penalty Stewards were mindful of the following: Ms Wilkins’ first Prohibited Substance offences; Analytical reports; Environmental contamination; Ms Wilkins’ licence history and other personal subjective facts. Acting under the provisions of Rule 195, FUTURE STRIDE and BACKINTHEGAME were disqualified from the abovementioned races. Ms Wilkins was advised of her right to appeal this decision.   Harness Racing NSW (HRNSW) is the controlling body for harness racing in New South Wales with responsibility for commercial and regulatory management of the industry including 33 racing clubs across the State.  HRNSW is headed by a Board of Directors and is independent of Government. To arrange an interview or for further information please contact: MICHAEL PRENTICE | INTEGRITY MANAGER (02) 9722 6600 •  mprentice@hrnsw.com.au GRANT ADAMS | CHAIRMAN OF STEWARDS (02) 9722 6600 •  gadams@hrnsw.com.au

After missing out on an opportunity to qualify for Saturday’s Ladyship Mile harness racing connections of Group 1 winning mare Don’t Think Twice have quickly re-evaluated their options. Now, a concentrated country campaign is the immediate target for the $211,645 earner, starting at Bathurst this Sunday afternoon. This move is a “blessing in disguise” according to trainer Brooke Wilkins. “She was balloted from the nominations for Menangle on Saturday night so we thought we would give her a run at Bathurst,” Wilkins said. “All we can do is hope for the Ladyship with her for next season. “It’s not a bad thing she missed out as she is only four and taking on the older mares might be a bit hard. “We are considering racing her at a few of the Carnival of Cups meetings coming up with races like the Young and Wagga Cup and then of course there is the Breeders Challenge.” As for Bathurst, Don’t Think Twice is no stranger to this track. Although based at Menangle Park, the daughter of Armbro Operative has had six starts at this circuit for five wins, including her victories in the Gold Tiara and Gold Bracelet. She has overcome the second row to win at this venue before and that will be the case on Sunday in the Orange CYMS Group 10 Rugby League Cup (2260m) where Don’t Think Twice has drawn inside the second row. “It’s a good race and hopefully she can come off the pegs straight away,” Wilkins said. Last start Don’t Think Twice finished eighth, beaten 5.9m in the Group 3 Paleface Adios Sprint at Menangle. That was the first time in a year she has finished outside a top two placing. “We were really happy with her run, they got home in a fast time and it was just too hard to make any ground,” Wilkins said. “Her sectionals were good and she has come through the run really well.” Don’t Think Twice will be driven by Jason Grimson who will also drive Ima Jaymar for Wilkins in race seven. Wilkins has won three races with the gelding since acquiring him. “He’s been going really well,” Wilkins said. “He is really quick off the gate and he is a funny little horse, he likes to do his own thing so we let him do whatever he wants and it seems to be working so far.” Wilkins has been on the sidelines from driving after a trackwork accident resulted in her fracturing her patella and tearing a ligament. She is expected to be back driving in two months’ time. Amanda Rando

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