Day At The Track

Bernie Winkle relishes a change of scenery

03:46 PM 14 May 2020 NZST
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Glenn Douglas with Bernie Winkle
Glenn Douglas with Bernie Winkle in the lead-up to the 2019 Bendigo Pacing Cup
Darren Howe Photo

A Pacer with strong Bendigo connections has emerged as one of the harness racing stars of regional racing in the North West.

Bernie Winkle, formerly a Glenn Douglas stable favourite, has strung together a trio of emphatic victories at Mildura since his transfer to Sunraysia trainer Geoff Lucas.

The seven-year-old gelding sounded his arrival in the region with a brilliant 9.1 metre win at the City Oval Paceway on April 24.

He has since been able to repeat the dose with a 5.4m victory, before making it a perfect three out of three with another 9.1m win last Friday.

While all three triumphs have been nothing short of imposing, the first was simply breathtaking, with Bernie Winkle entering the final lap in second last, about 20m off the leaders.

The son of Rock N Roll Heaven rapidly made up ground from the 700m to the 200m, before whisking by two of the undoubted stars of the Sunraysia racing scene in Augustus Jack and Murranji Track in the straight, to record an eye-catching win at a surprising 20-1.

There were no such generous odds the second time around with Bernie Winkle paying $2.90. He started a mere $1.80 last Friday and will likely be even shorter at his next outing.

His streak has prompted plenty of banter between great mates Douglas and Lucas.

"After he won the first week, Glenn rang me and said you know the (previous trainer's) magic lasts a week," Lucas said with a laugh.

"Then when he won the second week he told me it lasts two weeks.

"Now he's telling me it lasts three weeks, so he's taking all the credit."

Normally based just across the border from Mildura at Gol Gol in New South Wales, Lucas has been training his two horses (Bernie Winkle and Without Hesitation) on the Merbein South property of Andrew Stenhouse and Dwayne Locke.

He credited the pair's 'soft' sand-based track and a change in racing tactics as key factors in the veteran pacer's return to form.

"Their training track is unbelievable - it's the best training track up here by a mile and I'm sure it's helping him," he said.

"And we are driving him a lot quieter too. We don't spend any money out of the gate. I reckon he goes better that way rather than being burned out of the gate.

"(His driver) Shane Smith, who I didn't even know before this, has done a great job.

"I had to find a driver, and Andrew Stenhouse knew Shane when he was in Broken Hill, and convinced me that he went alright. I'd never really taken much notice.

"So I put him on and now he won't get off. He said to me he's never driven a horse like this.

"He has won a quarter of million (dollars) but had been battling a bit the last few months.

"I'm not sure anyone expected him to come out like he did the first run and win at 20-1, but he has just grown a leg."

A veteran of 179 race starts, Bernie Winkle has boosted his record to 25 wins and 40 placings since his move north.

Nine of those wins have been at Tabcorp Park Melton.

Bernie Winkle, driven by Glenn Douglas, wins at Tabcorp Park Melton in September last year. Picture: STUART McCORMICK

 Bernie Winkle, driven by Glenn Douglas, wins at Tabcorp Park Melton in September last year. Picture: STUART McCORMICK

 

The gelding had raced 13 times at Mildura before his past three starts, for three wins and two placings.

A pair of runs in the Central region before his departure to Mildura, produced a seventh behind Hashtag and a fourth behind his stablemate Vandanta.

I'm not sure anyone expected him to come out like he did the first run and win at 20-1, but he has just grown a leg.

Geoff Lucas

Douglas, whose training treble at Lord's Raceway on Monday included a win with Diesel Don, another horse to have recently swapped stables, said he was absolutely thrilled with Lucas' run of success with Bernie Winkle.

"Bernie was having to race horses down here that were perhaps a touch better than him, " he said.

"There's no better horse that I love than Bernie Winkle, he's a great horse to have around the stable.

"I'm great mates with Geoff Lucas, he's been a close and dear friend of mine for a while now.

"(Owner) Eric Anderson and I spoke to him and posed the question whether he would look after Bernie and he accepted.

"I don't think there's anybody more excited than Geoff, and myself for Geoff - he loves winning races.

"I'm sure he's getting as much fun out of it as we are."

THIS WEEK IN HARNESS RACING:

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