A full field of 79 gallopers lit up the track in Narrandera’s first major sporting event this year to compete for a purse of $72,000 on Saturday.
Trainers from as far as Cobar, Menindee, Wangaratta, Swan Hill and Canberra supported Narrandera Race Club’s successful return to racing during COVID-19.
It was a surreal scene with no public attendance, barrier attendants equipped with face masks and gloves, and trainers and jockeys separated by roped off areas.
Paying $9, seven-year-old gelding Kruanui ran the ProTen LW Peacock Memorial 1200m feature race in 1.12.12 to win from the favourite Original Prankster in second by half a length, and Funky Farm away in third. One of the most consistent horses around, Kruanui was ridden by Richard Bensley and is trained by Chris Heywood, Wagga Wagga.
Heywood said the gelding had improved since his third placing at Wagga on May 21.
“He was caught wide at Corowa (April 18), was a run to forget but all this preparation he has been pretty good,” he said. “He loves it here at Narrandera and has won a few times – a little less weight probably helped as well.
“He’s a quirky horse but Richard (Bensley) knows him quite well – it was good to see him win again.”
Heywood is planning to race Kruanui next at Wagga and return to Narrandera in July.
Race day manager Michael Bailey said there had been good feedback from the trainers on the track, rated a good four.
“It was an unusual day’s racing with a strange feel about it but at least we were able to keep racing going for all the people whose livelihoods depend on it,” Bailey said. “Hopefully we may get a crowd for one of the next two meetings, but there is still a lot of things to happen in the meantime.
“Today was a good result and the wagering was quite strong so we’ve had a good day as a club.”
Race club vice president Graham Mathieson had a good day at the track, picking up a win with Run Hoff Run and a second with the favourite in the Leeton Toyota 1400m maiden, Miss Elsie May.
Run Hoff Run, a six-year-old gelding by Bon Hoffa, was having his 68th start and was ridden by apprentice Georgina McDonnell. He completed the 1400m in 1.25.60 with the last 600m in 38.31.
Run Hoff Run gave Wagga trainer Trevor Sutherland the first of his two wins for the day. In second by a short head was the Mitchell Beer trained Zaberfeldie and third was Keep Me Posted.
The horse is owned by a syndicate of locals including Peter Eurell, Jason Rilen, Duncan Mclay and Tim Durnan, and started at $10.
Graham Mathieson was pleased to see a return in form for his home bred gelding after an unlucky run at Wagga over 2000m.
“He didn’t have a lot of weight on today – he hasn’t been going that well lately but seems to like Narrandera,” he said. “We brought him back to 1400m today as he is heading to a 2500m race at Wagga the end of the month.
“It’s a funny feeling here today – it’s like a training day with a few trainers and jockeys about.
“But it is good racing and hopefully the club does well out of it.”
Jerilderie trainer Phil Sweeney took out the Leeton Toyota 1400m maiden with four-year-old Zofferella, ridden by Bradley Vale in a time of 1.25.38. She scored by three quarters of a length to Miss Elsie May and I am Bruno in third.
Canberra trainer Todd Smart had a convincing win with Miss Farloo in the Narrandera Jewellers and Murrumbidgee Hotel 1400m with Blaike McDougall in the saddle covering the distance in 1.25.28.
It was two and three-quarters of a length second to the Troy Lorback trained Poet’s Muse and in third was Geileis.
Trevor Sutherland backed up in the Process Printers 1600m with Blazing Zone ridden by Aaron Sweeney in 1.38.45. You’re so Natural was second by half-a-length and in third Mahsinger.
Heni Ede booted home Miss Amelia for Wagga trainer Tim Donnelly to take the Narrandera Ex-Servicemen’s Club 1000m sprint in 58.69. Big Day, trained by Craig Weeding at Wangaratta, was second by two and a quarter lengths, with Strapping Conquest in third.
Former champion jockey John Kissick returned to the familiar Narrandera track after his long absence from the sport due to serious injury. The three-time premiership winning jockey suffered a spinal injury in a bull riding accident three-and-a-half-years ago but has returned to racing with a string of wins in recent weeks.
Formerly apprenticed to Leeton trainer Peter Clancy, Kissick had four rides at Narrandera. Based at Albury, he now rides for Albury trainer Mitchell Beer.
“I couldn’t be happier with my come-back, I hope to keep rolling along,” Kissick said. “My back took a while to come good but it’s been good as gold. I do stretches and core work every day.
“I’ve never wanted to do anything else but ride so it was great to be back in the saddle again.
“When I got the clearance to ride again I have never been happier.
“I just want to ride as many winners as I can to get back to where I used to be. I love the job and riding the horses.
“I’ve had a lot of luck on this track (Narrandera) and it was good to catch up with (old friends) today.”