It was a sight to behold when CONCESSIONS, a six-year-old bay mare by Tickets out the Beautiful Crown mare in Last Dollars, left her opponents in her wake in the run to the line in the 2020 Tooheys New Armidale Cup run on Sunday 1st March.
The trainer’s report was that CONCESSIONS was probably the best horse in the race. She had done really well in her work at home and would relish the “give” in the track, which was rated a Soft 6 at the start of the day.
A warmish day was forecast, Mid North Coast-based Belinda Hodder had accepted the ride and the mare had been allocated the nice weight of 54kgs. A precautionary “tweak” was a gear change, Winkers being applied to the mare to keep her sharp due to small drop back in distance. The punters had kept CONCESSIONS safe in the market. Opening in the betting at $9 out to $10 then backed into $8 at start time.
The starting gates for the 1900 metres of the Cup journey are located at the beginning of the home straight. CONCESSIONS jumped on terms, Belinda then eased her mount with the intention of taking up a position on the running rail just back of midfield. After outsmarting a couple of the other runners to get there, it was a case of Belinda and her ride hugging the fence for the next part of the race and settle into a steady pace.
On passing the winning post for the time, hometown favourite New Endeavour and the Paul Perry-trained San Francisco were up front jostling for the lead while that was going on, Mister Smartee from Port Macquarie had rushed up out wide and was caught even wider going into the first turn which is a tight one, ultimately that horse had to ease.
With the field stringing out down the side of the track, CONCESSIONS found herself some 7 to 8 lengths off the pace. With around 1300 metres left to run, Belinda as calm as you like was happy where she was keeping her horse comfortable, travelling well within herself.
Nearing 1000 metres from home, Belinda began her assessment of the situation. After moving a length closer to the frontrunners, the duo were now just under 6 lengths back and closing gradually. The 600 metres mark saw CONCESSIONS being asked to quicken, which she did, by time the field were approaching the 400 metres, the margin was down to 4 lengths.
Coming into the race with the pace on, still on the rail, Belinda was urging CONCESSIONS for that little extra in order to take advantage of the clear running room ahead. It wasn’t until the point of the turn Belinda eased her mare off the rails to three horses off the fence to gain clear running to the finish.
While this was happening, the Kris Lees - trained and favourite Chilly Cha Cha ($3.50) was laying down a challenge to the leader, New Endeavour, which was giving plenty.
Once into the straight and having drawn level and gone past the two horses in front of them, Belinda gave CONCESSIONS just a tap with the persuader and away they went, exploding to a three length margin within 50 metres.
Eventually going to the post close on 5 lengths ahead of Devlann, which and run on and the fast finishing Paul Perry horse and second favourite Nothing Too Hard. The crowd were silenced by the turn of foot CONCESSIONS had shown.
Wow … that was truly special. Congratulations to all the owners, especially long-term clients, Wal and Anne Lanham. Wal bred and along with Anne own another winner on the day in Itasca also from the Singleton Racing Stables and congratulations must also go to other long-timers, Adrian and Margaret Roberts. Finally, an extra well done to part lessees, the Wingnut Sports Syndicates, they also had reason to celebrate with Itasca.
’twas a grand day all round. It brought back memories of another Sunday this time in October, the 17th in fact, at the Hawkesbury racecourse, when CONCESSIONS and ITASCA were both victorious.
A fine training performance again by Scott and Lucy’s team, things are going along nicely from your Scone base. Even more successes will come in the near future.
Call it fate if you are so inclined but it was just meant to be. The day, St David’s Day Sunday March 1 in the year 2020. The Patron Saint of Wales had aligned the universe in readiness for what was about to happen.
The location was Armidale in the New England Tablelands of New South Wales. The occasion, a race meeting held on the racecourse in the town. ITASCA, the six-year-old gelding bred by Wal Lanham. Owners, the effervescent Wal and his lovely wife Anne, who is of Welsh descent, added to the theme of the day. There is one more note of mention, the colours worn by their horse are red, green and white, the national colours of Wales. They are Anne’s family’s silks, originally owned by her grandfather, designed by her father and have been carried by Group Race performers.
The racetrack at Armidale had suffered during the drought, over the past five months meetings scheduled to be held there were transferred to other venues. In spite of that hardship, the track looked in perfect order and was rated a Slow 6 with a fine day forecast and ITASCA accepted to run in race five on the card, the Regional Australia Bank Class 3 Showcase Handicap (1300m).
ITASCA, who has a penchant for female jockeys, (“the girls” have ridden the horse three out of his four wins to date) had gained the services of successful Newcastle-based apprentice Mikayla Weir. The barrier drawn was reasonable, barrier 8 out of the 12 starters and ITASCA would have to carry 55.5kgs for the 1300 metres journey.
After being off the scene for nearly six months ITASCA had been in work for some time and readied for the race with a good hit-out at the Muswellbrook trials twelve days earlier.
The 1300 metres start located in the longest straight run of the 1600 metres track, giving runners an opportunity to get into their desired position prior to turning into the short back straight of 200 metres. The horses are then on a continuous bend into the short home straight of around 300 metres. So, it’s ideal to keep close to the fence to avoid getting caught wide.
As per instructions, Mikayla allowed ITASCA to “flop” out of the barriers with the intention of letting her mount settle unfussed toward the rear of the field. By the time they’d gone 100 metres the jockey had her horse going along easy in about ninth position some 8 lengths from the leaders.
Now into a nice rhythm, the rider continued to hold her spot just biding her time aboard ITASCA. Passing the 1000 metres mark positions had hardly changed the only noticeable change was The Pharaoh making a quick move forward to take up the role as frontrunner. ITASCA as this stage was now a “tad “more than 11 lengths from that horse, still travelling kindly.
With the 800 metres pole behind them, Mikayla decided it was time to get a bit of a “wriggle on” and upped her rating marginally with the view of gaining ground on the main bunch of horses. At the 600 mark, the move saw ITASCA now 7 lengths off the pacemaker and coming into the race nicely.
Just prior to entering the straight run for home the jockey had ITASCA taking the shortest way home by hugging the rails while others runners were fanning wide. Into the straight and just balanced up Mikayla sensed the two runners in front of her namely The Pharaoh and Denman Unlimited were tiring and had to react quickly and extricate her horse away from the fence to a position three wide in order to have an uninterrupted run to the finish line.
In the meantime the second favourite, Kris Lees-trained Dundee Lee ($3.20) had hit the lead and was full of running, ITASCA would be in for the chase about 3/4 of a length back. Mikayla applied a couple of slaps of the whip, her mount responded.
The tussle was on, it wasn’t until 25 metres out that ITASCA had his head in front, the winning post was in their sights. On the line a clear but narrow margin to ITASCA by 0.1 length ahead of Dundee Lee with Pomme La Belle running on into third placing after taking the widest route around the home bend.
Heartiest Congratulations to the owners, Wal and Anne and the Wingnut Sports Syndicates, who lease a small percentage of ITASCA. What a grand return to racing for your horse. A lovely ride by Mikayla …Well Done and an excellent training performance by Scott and his team.
Of course one mustn’t forget we must pay homage to St. David for aligning all aspects of ITASCA’s victory. Go the Red, Green and White. Looking forward to those colours saluting again soon.