Day At The Track
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Seldom does a sixth placing mean so much. Yet a well-beaten sixth at Menangle today was just enough points to secure the 2019 Harness Racing New South Wales Rising Stars Series for Menangle-based reinsman Josh Gallagher. Gallagher's sixth with Muscle Mach was just enough to hold off Maitland reinsman Jake Hughes and take the series. The race was taken out by Thatswhatisaid (Jack Callaghan), beating Santannas Rocket and Rocking in a race marred by a three-horse fall that ended any hopes three drivers, Sean Grayling, McKayler Barnes and Jordan Seary had of ending the series on a winning note. Gallagher knows Tabcorp Park Menangle better than anyone as he works fulltime for the KerryAnn and Robert Morris stable, just outside the front gates of the track, so seldom does a day go by when he's not spotted working a horse there. "Winning this series was really something special," said Gallagher. "I've watched the drivers in other series and something like this can really help your career. "I drove a handy horse today in Argyle Beach, who went 1:52 and raced really well to win the first of today's two heats. "Hopefully I'll get a few more offers of some good drives out of this. "Long-term I'd like to train a couple myself but I have met a lot of good people this week and gone to some areas I've never visited before. "I landed three winners this week so that can only help my career in the long-term. "But it has been a week I'll always remember and I have made a lot of new friends of out of it as well." Going into the final two races today, the series was well and truly up for grabs and after Gallagher scored in the opening race, it came down to a race in two between he and Jake Hughes. But the best Hughes could manage in the final race of the series was fifth, while Gallagher was right behind him in sixth, to take the title. Sean Vella

PROMISING Menangle reinsman Josh Gallagher seems destined for big success in coming years, but he will never score a more important, or special, win than Wednesday’s HRNSW Rewards Series Final with Pacific Cullen, at Gold Crown Paceway. And those privileged to see the win, and the scenes that followed it, are never likely to forget it. The 18-year-old had made the trek up to Bathurst to drive KerryAnn Turner’s four stable runners at the meeting, still reeling from the death of his father Damien, in tragic circumstances, earlier in the week. The usual orange-and-black stable colours stayed in the kit bag on this night, replaced by his Dad’s blue and green diagonal striped livery. A large group of the Gallagher family, and friends, was there to support Josh, and will him on. Earlier in the meeting, semi-finals of the Soldiers Saddle series had provided two outstanding wins, in identical 1:54.7 runs, by Scarlet Babe and Ominous Warning, but for many on track, the real story of the night was going to be the quartet of races, from five through to eight,  featuring Josh in those colours. He began with a couple of thirds. Our Bondi Beach ran on well in the fast-class behind the 1:54.1 flyer Future Stride and Kleened Out NZ chased hard behind The Times A Changing NZ in the sixth, before Text Message finished a well-beaten fifth in a dramatic C1 sprint where Coolie Kid NZ won on protest. So it all came down to Pacific Cullen in the Rewards Series Final. She started a $2.25 favourite on the strength of a dominant win in the previous week’s heat, with Kerryann in the bike, but she was faced with a difficult draw outside the front, against a decidedly stronger field. When Josh made his intentions clear straightaway by spearing across the field to lead at the first corner, he might have been echoing those famous Invictus lines of William Henley: I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. Heading up the back straight the final time, he laid it all on the line with a flat-out 27.0s quarter, and headed for home with whatever was left in the tank. Fifty metres out, it was clear they weren’t going to be headed. The crowd roared, racecaller Fred Hastings switched to overdrive, and as he hit the line, Josh raised his whip skywards in a gesture with so much meaning it seemed to defy description. To call the post-race scenes “emotion-charged” would be something of an understatement. The young driver was surrounded in the warm embrace of his family, and of his trainer, whose care and concern for him had been evident all night. As he returned to scale, and right through the race presentation, the crowd added their support with spontaneous, generous applause. The winning horse might be a Cullen, but her driver is definitely a Courage Under Fire job, displaying resolution and bravery throughout this week that filled his family with pride and the rest of us with admiration. His final words “ I love you Dad” perfectly captured in words that winning gesture we’d witnessed a few minutes earlier. There are salutes, and then there are salutes. Terry Neil

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