Day At The Track

"Fritz" again shows he's up for the fight

12:20 PM 03 Dec 2019 NZDT
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Part-owner Gail Davis, trainer Greg Scholefield and reinsman James Herbertson,Harness racing
Part-owner Gail Davis, trainer Greg Scholefield and reinsman James Herbertson after their Stawell Cup success

Classy gelding Emain Macha, who overcame a life-threatening illness earlier in his career, continued his stellar Victorian country cups harness racing campaign by taking out the Stawell Cup on Sunday.

The six-year-old, known around the stables as Fritz, was having only his fifth start for the season, but has now claimed two country cups this stint- having won the St Arnaud Cup on November 10.

Emain Macha (Safari-Machabella (Mach Three) is trained by astute horseman Greg Scholefield, who a few years ago decided to concentrate on preparing his small team on a full-time basis.

A builder by trade, Scholefield is based at Naracoorte, a small sheep, cattle and wheat farming town in south-east South Australia near the State border with Victoria.

Emain Macha took an early lead in the Group Three $45,000 feature for in-form junior reinsman James Herbertson, of Ballarat, and narrowly got the money over short-priced race favorite Code Black (Greg Sugars).

"He felt terrific in the run and Greg certainly had him cherry ripe for the assignment," Herbertson said.

"When I put the foot down with 600 metres to go, the horse really hit top gear," he said.

"He knocked off a bit over the final stages, but I wasn't concerned because he always does that."

It's been an admirable training achievement by Scholefield to return Emain Macha to prime health and fitness.

After winning the $20,000 Guineas at Mildura on April 8, 2017, in what was his 14th career victory from just 18 starts, Emain Macha contracted a virus, which put him on the sidelines for almost a year.

Aside from the effects of the virus, the horse later came down with bronchitis, his weight dropped away, he developed foot swelling and there were fears for his life.

Trainer and part-owner Scholefield sought the advice of local vet Tony Tully who put "Fritz" on a course of treatment and a long and arduous road to recovery began.

Emain Macha resumed racing in late February the following year, winning at a Mt Gambier meeting first up. The pacer, owned by Scholefield, Gail Davis, Peter Lamond, and father-and-son John and Sean Penny, now has a total of 29 wins and 13 placings from his 50 starts, amassing $258,000 in stakes.

At Stawell, Herbertson certainly didn't dawdle over the mini marathon Cup distance of 2600m with early splits of 31.4 and 29.9. He later cranked up the tempo with a strong last half of 56 secs (28.8 and 27.2) to hold off Code Black, a recent winner of the Yarra Valley Pacing Cup.

"We decided before the event to go for the lead because he bowls along nicely out in front. He's a lovely horse and he's been good to me because in my three drives on him he's had two wins and a second," he said.

Watch the race replay here:

Herbertson last season topped the ton (102 wins) for the first time in his short career, and is off to a flying start this season, with 37 wins and 75 places, racking up an impressive 43% strike rate. He also got the chocolates at Stawell with Seemepearlywhites (Grinfromeartoear-Numismatic (Elsu).

"She is a handy mare and she gives her best. The Platinum Sprint heat was a good race to win and they picked up a Vicbred bonus as well," Herbertson said.

Seemepearlywhites is trained by popular Maryborough track curator-trainer Tim Mortlock.

Mortlock trains only two horses but comes from a good pedigree with his late father Rob and legendary grandfather Jack Hargreaves both successful horsemen.


Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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