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21 October 2020
By SARAH MATTHEWS
Horsham and District Racing Club leaders are hoping COVID-19 restrictions will further ease to allow patrons to attend the club’s annual Santa Day race meeting.
The club hosted Sunday’s Millers Horsham Cup meeting without crowds and president Jason Merlo said even though the day was successful, it was tough going.
“It was very hard without the crowd – the atmosphere just wasn’t there,” he said.
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“We were lucky to have a couple of owners at the track who had the winning horse in the cup.
“They were very happy and it was great to see that.
“But they weren’t allowed to come into the ring and we couldn’t present the trophy to them, which was a bit disappointing.
“But overall the day went well. We had good fields and it was quite a nice day, weather wise.
“Now we’re just hoping we’ll be able to have people back on track for the Santa Day races in December.
“We should know in the next two to three weeks what we can do, depending on the restrictions.
“Country Racing Victoria is updating us every week with our COVID regulations, so things have been changing a bit.”
Mr Merlo said the club welcomed an easing of restrictions on jump-outs at the Horsham track.
“Previously we’ve only been allowed to have horses from Horsham and Stawell, but this week we’ve been able to have horses from Swan Hill and Hamilton,” he said.
“Austy Coffey brought down a few runners from Swan Hill, which was good.”
Although racegoers were not allowed trackside, they could watch the action unfold on television.
Horsham’s Exchange Hotel hosted a ‘Horsham Cup in the Beer Garden’ event, with limited numbers, allowing people who would usually attend the cup to get dressed up and watch the races.
They were treated to an eight-race card, headlined by the $60,000 Millers Horsham Cup.
South Australian gelding Andrea Mantegna claimed the feature race for Goolwa trainer David Jolly, with Michael Rodd in the saddle.
Horsham jockey Dean Yendall was runner-up by a long neck aboard Royal Performance for Lindsay Smith.
McKenzie Creek trainer Paul Preusker had a good day out, triumphing with Lowanna Magic in a maiden plate and Lord of Darkness in a benchmark-64 handicap.
He also scored three minor placings, but it was his star stayer Surprise Baby that drew the most attention.
The New Zealand-bred six-year-old gelding – bought for $5500 at an online auction in 2017 – is among the favourites to take out this year’s $8-million Melbourne Cup at Flemington on November 3.
Surprise Baby, which finished fifth in the ‘race that stops the nation’ in 2019, did an exhibition gallop around the Horsham track on Sunday.
“He went around with another one of Paul’s horses, Vivid Red Sky,” Mr Merlo said.
“He did it easy and looks nice and fit.”
Mr Merlo said he was thrilled to have a Horsham runner in Australia’s most famous horse race.
“They are very hard to come by,” he said. It’s very exciting.”
• Upcoming Wimmera country cup meetings include St Arnaud Cup, Sunday; Ararat Gold Cup, November 8; Donald Cup, November 15; and Nhill Cup, December 26. Stawell’s Christmas race day is on December 5 and Horsham’s, December 20.
The entire October 21, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!