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       Bizarre Victorian Racing Stories

Drongo’s Close Encounter
with a Race Horse

A few years ago I took my young son and some of his friends to Mornington races. It was a hot summer’s day, and we all travelled to Mornington on a coach service operated by Provincial Tours. When we arrived at the track the kids headed for the children’s activities put on by the club. They spent the day playing rather than watching the races. Oh well.

I like to observe all aspects of racing and on this day I decided to follow the progress of a horse named Bergman Road. The horse was trained by Mornington trainer Peter Fell, who is an expat Kiwi. Many New Zealanders head for Mornington due to the similarities of the two places, I have been told. I had met Peter some time before at a Stony Creek race meeting on 12/1/96 where he had a runner called Painted Dimension, of which I was quite interested. My interest lay in the fact that I was a keen follower of the sire Paint The Stars, and Painted Dimension was one of his progeny.

Anyway, back to Mornington races. I watched Peter saddle up Bergman Road who was running in a Maiden, having his first start if I recall correctly. Peter’s regular jockey at the time was Stephen Baster, who couldn’t take the mount as he was suspended just before this meeting. The pickup ride went to Brett Prebble, one of Victoria’s leading riders. As the horses made their way onto the track I positioned myself on the running rail next to the gate where the horses went onto the track.

As Bergman Road headed for the starting stalls he threw his jockey and bolted. With the Clerk of the Course in hot pursuit, Bergman Road led a merry chase. He almost slipped over when changing direction and also threatened to jump the outside running-rail as he tried to get away from his pursuers. At this stage the Clerk of the Course decided to stop chasing the runaway as it was only stirring him up even more. After several minutes Bergman Road decided to come over to where I was standing. I presume this was because he was at his home course and this is where he would normally leave the training track. Well he simply stopped his gallivanting and stood before me, him on the track and me the other side of the fence. I slowly raised my left hand, grasped his bridle and held on with a firm grip. The course commentator (Brian Markovic) announced that a man in a hat (me) had caught the runaway horse, and the people cheered. On the track side of the fence, one of the stewards (Neville Laskey) walked up to me and the horse and I said ‘gday Neville’ and handed the reins over to him. I knew Neville quite well as he worked in the Commonwealth bank at Oakleigh (near my home) before the branch was closed. Neville changed vocations and became a steward. Anyway, the Clerk of the Course arrived and Neville gave the horse to him. Bergman Road was then taken around to the starting stalls where Prebble remounted. The horse was checked and cleared to run.

The race was run and Bergman Road came last. Prebble brought the horse back and stopped right in front on me, waiting to return to the mounting yard. I looked the horse in the eyes and told him he was ‘a very naughty horse’. Prebble looked at me like I was a loony. Later I went up to the broadcast box and introduced myself to Brian Markovic and told him I was the one who caught the horse earlier in the day. I also asked Brian why his nickname was Mr Bean. I was joking of course, as there is a close resemblance between Brian Markovic and Mr Bean. Turns out Brian doesn't even like Mr Bean.

I later told the kids of all the excitement they had missed. They could not have cared less. Oh well. That was my exciting day at Mornington races one summer’s day.

Two Fall Guys Upstage Marx Brothers

From an Age newspaper article
by Tony Bourke dated 27/12/1996

The impromptu piece of circus riding by Ballarat apprentice Andrew Payne at Caulfield on Thursday the 26th of December 1996 was just like something out of the movies or to be more precise, a Marx Brothers movie because it was far too bizarre to be based on reality.

So when the VATC (Victoria Amateur Turf Club) decided to entertain early arrivals at Caulfield with the Marx Brothers classic A Day At The Races (on the giant TV screen) in which Harpo switches mounts mid-race, little did anyone expect that life would be imitating art later in the afternoon.

When Payne, a member of the famous Ballarat based racing clan, ended up on Cogitate after a chain reaction of interference on the home turn in the feature race of the day (the Christmas Handicap) few people at the track realised what had happened and those who did refused to believe their eyes.

Most people watching the race saw Cogitate stumble and dislodge his rider Jason Patton, who became the centre of attention as he hit the turf in front of oncoming horses, including Payne's mount Hon Kwok Star. As the TV replays later made clear, Payne attempting to avoid Patton, became unbalanced and was dislodged from Hon Kwok Star. Incidently, at that time Jason Patton was the fiance of Andrew Payne's elder sister Therese, who was also a jockey. Jason and Therese are now married with children, so Andrew and Jason are now brothers-in-law.

Payne was thrown out to the right and his right arm somehow landed over the saddle of the riderless Cogitate. In an instinctive reaction, Payne grabbed Cogitate's saddle and almost miraculously managed to swing his body over Cogitate into the saddle and gain control of the reins, although he had no hope of getting his feet into the dangling irons.

Cogitate finished the race at the tail of the field and Payne brought the horse back to scale to the stunned amazement of the crowd as well as the connections of both his "mounts". As Payne unsaddled Cogitate, a strapper came over with Hon Kwok Star's saddle and asked "Do you want to carry this one in, too?" Payne said later he had not intended to grab Cogitate but when his arm hit the saddle he decided to hold on and hope for the best.

In the official results, both Hon Kwok Star and Cogitate (although he finished the race) were listed as having lost their riders.

Patton, who escape with a slightly sprained ankle and bruising, said he had no idea of the drama going on around him after he was dislodged from Cogitate.

Stewards, trainers and jockeys could not remember a similar incident, although there have been several cases of jumps jockeys who have been dislodged, capturing and remounting another riderless horse and bringing it back to scale.

The stewards later suspended apprentice Brent Stanley for causing the chain reaction of interference that led to Cogitate's mishap near the 400 metres.

Not surprisingly, it was left to Greg Hall, one of racing's great characters, to have the final word as he watched the replay of the incident. With jockeys nationwide campaigning for a pay rise of up to 100 per cent, Hall's not so dulcet tones boomed out sarcastically, "What do you expect? We can all do those things for $65, maybe he (Payne) would have won the race for $130".

Accidental 'Ring-In'
Takes a Bizarre Twist

From an Age newspaper article
by Tony Bourke dated 27/1/96

The case of two mixed-up horses at Moonee Valley yesterday led to an amazing coincidence that bookmakers would have quoted as a genuine million-to-one chance.

The bizarre twist to the late scratching of prepost fancy The Gunnison from the Suni-Sandwich Handicap would have left the bungled Fine Cotton ring-in in the shade - only this time it involved a genuine mistake.

The drama began some 30 minutes before the start of the race when The Gunnison, top-weight and second favourite, was withdrawn by order of stewards because of a discrepancy between his racing papers and his markings and brands.

The Gunnison, trained by Peter Clarke at Epsom, had not raced since November 1994, when he broke down after winning a 1000 metres race at Flemington. Now a six-year-old, The Gunnison, by former champion racehorse Rubiton, bowed a tendon in the near foreleg and was sent back to the Oakbank (South Australia) property of owner Des Pope, a Melbourne businessman, for a long spell.

Also on the property was Rubilad, a gelding of the same age by Rubiton who had broken down with a similar injury to the same leg after winning a hurdle race in August 1994.

After some months, Pope decided the horse he thought was the Gunnison had shown enough signs of recovery to be given another chance on the race-track. The gelding came back to Melbourne and went into pre-training with Dennis Froelich at Mornington before re-joining Clarke's stable about three months ago.

Meanwhile, it was decided that Rubilad's racing days were over and Pope offered him to his niece Nicole Pope in Melbourne to use as a hack - and this is where the story gets really interesting.

As Pope, Clarke, family and friends stood around the stall of the horse they thought was The Gunnison at Moonee Valley wondering how the mix-up could have happened, Pope telephoned his niece, who had sheepishly admitted the gift horse had proved a "bit of a handful" to ride and she had given him to Terry Horan, a Belgrave-based mountain rider. She added that Horan was probably there at Moonee Valley for the 3AW Mountain Rider's Cup for amateur horse and riders.

The possibility that the other piece of the puzzle might be on the course was almost too tantalising a co-incidence for all concerned, but they went to check anyway - only to hear that the race for mountain riders had just begun.

Horan's mount "Charles", went to the lead in the event which involved jumping hay bales and navigating some tight corners, but he faded and finished second last.

Horan was soon greeted by several anxious people wishing to check the gelding's brands. Sure enough, the brands positively identified "Charles" as The Gunnison.

The stewards were stunned when they were told of this latest development, but thorough checks of the brands confirmed that the horse taken to Moonee Valley as The Gunnison was in fact the broken-down hurdler Rubilad.

Naturally both Pope and Clarke were highly embarrassed, but as Pope pointed out it was an honest mistake from the start.

The real loser was Horan, who had spent six months preparing "Charles" for his debut as a mountain horse. He was visibly upset when told that The Gunnison (alias "Charles") would be returning to Clarke's stable with Rubilad.

Gunnison Wrong Horse

From a Herald Sun newspaper
article by Tim Habel dated 27/1/96

Sprinter The Gunnison yesterday was withdrawn from the Suni-Sandwich Handicap (1000m) at Moonee Valley when a routine stewards' inspection showed the sprinter's brands and markings didn't match his registration papers.

The horse taken to the Valley from Epsom trainer Peter Clarke's stables was later identified by his part-owner Des Pope, as hurdler Rubilad. Pope also owns The Gunnison.

Pope yesterday said that The Gunnison and Rubilad must have been mixed up when both were spelling on his farm at Oakbank, South Australia.

The Gunnison, who hasn't raced since winning at Flemington in November 1994, was sent to Oakbank to be treated for a bowed tendon.

Pope said Rubilad, who was trained in Adelaide by David Bayliss, was also sent to Oakbank after bowing a tendon in August 1994. Pope said when it was decided to bring The Gunnison back into work three months ago, Rubilad must have been sent to Clarke by mistake.

Pope said it appeared Rubilad had had an operation on his legs which was meant for The Gunnison and their identities had been mistaken ever since.

The Gunnison and Rubilad have several things in common;

  1. Both are sired by Rubiton, are six years old and bay in colour.

  2. Both horses have bowed tendons in the near foreleg.

  3. Apart from different brands, the only distinguishing mark is a small white star on Rubilad's head.
This is how the sequence of events unfolded;

  • Clarke went to the races thinking he was saddling up the injury-prone but talented sprinter The Gunnison.

  • A routine inspection of brands before a random prerace blood test showed the horse was not The Gunnison, who is branded 4 over 9. Rubilad is marked 15 over 9.

  • Stewards ordered the scratching of The Gunnison at 3:42 pm, 26 minutes before race time. The Gunnison was then second favourite in the race.

Trainer Clarke said the horse he thought was The Gunnison had returned to his stables about three months ago.

"We'd only done beach work with him so I didn't suspect anything. In fact the horse was going very nicely," he said. "The horses look the same and they've both broken down in the near foreleg. It's my responsibility, I should have checked the brands."

In a remarkable coincidence, The Gunnison was also at the Valley yesterday, taken there by horseman Terry Horan - who thought the horse was hurdler Rubilad - to run in a novelty 'mountain men's' race after the Suni-Sandwich Handicap. Horan had six months earlier "borrowed" the horse from Pope's niece (Nicki Pope) and had entered him in the novelty race as "Charles".

As Pope was still scratching his head about The Gunnison's identity, he saw a horse bearing a remarkable resemblance to the real The Gunnison run in the mountain men's race.

Pope immediately rang his niece Nicki, whom he had given Rubilad as a hack, and she confirmed she had lent "Rubilad" to Horan to race in mountain events.

Chairman of stewards Pat Lalor observed, "Nat Gould wouldn't script this."

Not surprisingly The Gunnison, or "Charles", faded in the 2500 metre race, which included several hay-bale hurdles, to finish second last. The Gunnison is a 1000 metre specialist and has never raced beyond 1100 metres.

"We're totally embarrassed by the whole affair," Pope said, "It's my fault, but they all look the same to me."

Stewards adjourned an inquiry into Clarke's failure to bring the correct horse to the races.

Clarke Fined Over Accidental Mix-Up

From a Herald Sun newspaper
article dated 6/2/96

Trainer Peter Clarke yesterday was fined over the most bizarre horse mix-up in Victorian racing.

Clarke was fined $2000 for breaching the rules by presenting Rubilad as The Gunnison to race in the 1000 metre sprint at Moonee Valley on January 26.

On the same day The Gunnison - thought to be the retired Rubilad - also raced as "Charles" in the special mountain rider's race.

The confusion had started months before when Rubilad, instead of The Gunnison, was sent from a resting paddock to have a tendon operation.

Stewards yesterday took further evidence from Clarke and The Gunnison's managing owner Des Pope.

They accepted it was a genuine, innocent mistake. But they punished Clarke and alerted all trainers to their responsibility to properly identify the horses in their stables.

Bendigo Betting Rort

From a Herald Sun newspaper article dated 31/1/96

Claims of manipulation of the SuperTAB pool on last night's Bendigo Pacing Cup are being investigated by Tabcorp officials and Harness Racing Victoria stewards.

At the center of the inquiry is the fact that outsider The Widow's Mite - who started 8 to 1 with bookmakers and better than 10 to 1 in final SuperTAB pools - was substitute in the last leg of the Quadextra and Daily Double.

A substitute was required following the late scratching of leading Cup fancy Galway, but it was expected either the 7 to 4 favourite Brabham or second pick Master Musician would have carried the Galway money.

Galway, who was injured early in the night, was scratched on veterinary advice after early legs of the Quadextra and Daily Double races had been run.

It is believed that one of Victoria's best known harness racing punters manipulated the win pool on the race to ensure The Widow's Mite became the substitute. In doing so, he ensured himself of a better dividend if any of his selections in the Daily Double or Quadextra were successful.

The substitute is declared as the horse holding favouritism in the SuperTAB win pool fifteen minutes before the start of the race. The punter is understood to have invested $5000 on The Widow's Mite just before the fifteen minute deadline, then cancelled the transaction soon after.

Tabcorp rules prevent single bets of more than $200 being cancelled within the last fifteen minutes of betting. But this punter overcame the restriction by placing 25 bets of $200 on The Widow's Mite.

Brabham won the Pacing Cup and paid $2.40 a win, odds of less than 6 to 4. The Daily Double paid a healthy dividend of $21.60 and the Quadextra paid $2141.40. It is believed the punter had multiple units of the successful Quadextra.

Spokesman for Tabcorp, Michael Piggot, yesterday conceded there were "several large bets cancelled which caused the odds to fluctuate".

HRV chief executive Bernard Saundry said his board viewed the betting trends as "most concerning".

"We have a senior steward, John Potter, investigating the matter and we have also asked Tabcorp for full details of the time sequence as far as the cancellations are concerned," he said.

Substitutes as
Necessary as
Nuclear Testing

From a Herald Sun newspaper article by Shane Templeton dated 31/1/96

Substitutes to punters should be the equal of nuclear testing to the Green movement.

They have been, are and always will be a blight on our gambling community.

The Victorian tote substitute system is the reason last Friday's laughable horse mix-up could have serious repercussions for punters.

And it is the only reason the almost certain manipulation of the harness racing win pool on last Friday night's Bendigo Cup could ever have been considered.

Punters should not be subjected to having their wagers unwillingly transferred to other horses.

That's what happened last Friday when it was discovered that The Gunnison was running in a novelty race, while the horse who had turned up as him was really Rubilad.

We are talking about many thousands of dollars here, wagered on the multiple betting quadrella, quadextra and a slightly jackpotting straight six.

The hot favourite in the The Gunnison's race was Kingston Calling. Those who took The Gunnison in the quadrella, the quadextra or the straight six had their bets transferred to Kingston Calling, whether they liked it or not.

From all reports on Friday night, creating a false substitute was a premeditated and well-organised exploitation of the substitute and bet cancellation system.

It has happened before and it will happen again.

The circumstances border on the ludicrous.

At least 80% of betting is done within the final five minutes before a race.

The substitute is decided on a preliminary pool, which has been bet fifteen minutes before start time and remains subject to bet cancellations as long as those individual wagers do not exceed two hundred dollars.

But even that's not the point. The TAB has been operating in Victoria since 1961, so why the hell do we still have these substitutes?

Not once in twenty years of challenging the TAB have I heard one legitimate or convincing defence for it.

If you want a positive alternative, it is simple and readily available. Refunds or special dividends are declared in other states, and it is even done here in the extreme case of a meeting being abandoned midway through a program.

The current situation cannot be explained away simply by blaming Crisp, the Victorian TAB's outdated and inadequate computer system, which was to have been replaced by the ill-fated Delta system.

This time let's not scratch our heads, trying to figure out the best way of handling bet cancellations and their size, or the questionable motives of some punters.

Just scrap the substitutes, like the French should do with their bomb testing.

'With Drawn' Withdrawn
(by stewards)

At Yarra Glen races on Wednesday 5/1/2000, a horse by the name of 'With Drawn' was supposed to be a runner in the Yarra Glen Cup. Unfortunately the horse reared in the starting stalls and threw its jockey (Malcolm Pay) onto the ground, injuring the jockey's leg. Stewards then ordered that 'With Drawn' be withdrawn from the race. How bizarre!

Great Display of Horsemanship

Story by Robert Windmill - Racing & Sports

At Flemington races on Saturday 28/6/2003 there was an incident which displayed the skill of two of the jumps riders. Champion jumper St Steven went close pulling off an extraordinary win in Saturday's Crisp Steeplechase (4000m) at Flemington after racing for 1200 metres with a dangling bridle. Jockey Craig Durden accidentally dislodged the head gear when he was thrown forward on the dual Hiskens Steeplechase winner at the second fence. Durden kept his composure as St Steven bungled another three jumps before rival jockey Bill Williams showed great horsemanship and sportsmanship and recovered the bridle racing towards the winning post on the first lap. In one fluid motion Williams, riding Play Me Please on the inside, reached over and flicked the bridle back over St Steven's head allowing Durden to make the final readjustment. A year ago at Moonee Valley Williams was also involved in a remarkable feat when he managed to win the Ian Macdonald steeplechase on River Boy, riding the horse on one rein. Durden said he concentrated on trying to keeping the bit in St Steven's mouth, fearing he could lose complete control of the jumper. "It was great that Bill helped me out," Durden said. Williams said he noticed Durden was in trouble soon after the bridle went over St Steven's head and didn't hesitate to assist when the opportunity came. "I would hope another jockey would do the same for me," he said. Chief steward Des Gleeson commended Williams' sportsmanship and horsemanship. "It was top effort," Gleeson said. "He could see another rider in some trouble and went out of his way to help. "It was a terrific piece of horsemanship. Durden said St Steven "bellied" through the second fence. "I pushed the bridle off his head and was lucky to keep the bit in his mouth," Durden said.

Safety Reviewed
After Freak Sandown Mishap

Story from Reuters

Australian racing officials have reviewed safety procedures after five jockeys were hurt when a flock of seagulls flew into the path of their horses in a bizarre mid-race mishap.

A field of 11 horses was racing towards the finishing post in the final race at Sandown race track in Melbourne on Wednesday 30th of March 2005 when a large flock of the birds suddenly rose up off the track and flew into the approaching horses. Some of the horses reared up and others balked, throwing their jockeys.

Darren Gauci complained of a sore neck and was taken to hospital for scans after falling from his mount Diamond Hailey in the mid-track mayhem. Luke Nolan suffered a broken thumb, and three other jockeys suffered minor injuries.

The mishap came as Australian racing was still mourning the deaths of two Victorian jockeys in separate race falls this month and a bad spinal injury suffered by 2002 and 1995 Melbourne Cup winning rider Damien Oliver.

Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) chief steward Des Gleeson described the incident as "bizarre and extraordinary". MRC chief executive Warran Brown said in a statement after an emergency meeting: "The club is deeply concerned by this occurrence and is treating the matter as an urgent priority." . He said a number of measures would be put in place, including having extra staff on the course and finishing races earlier before the birds begin to congregate in the late afternoon. "We have already been in contact with the Department of Sustainability and Environment and will investigate non-destructive eradication programs," he said.

Jockey Greg Childs, who was unhurt, said seagulls had long been a problem at Sandown, while rider Peter Mertens said the birds hit so hard that his mount went sideways. Only five horses finished the race, which was declared void.

The Herald Sun newspaper reported that police were called after one angry punter stormed the stewards room to complain about the incident.


Tale of the Shoe and the Tail

From The Age newspaper - June 7, 2005

Former jockey and now trainer Wayne "Smokey" Treloar described it as "another way of how to lose your money on the racetrack", but reckons the circumstances involving this one are probably the most bizarre he has come across in a career devoted to the sport.

It involves his three-year-old colt Sherborne, who was beaten by just half-a-length into third place in the fifth race at Bendigo on Saturday. Not only was his apprentice jockey Ricky Debono unable to claim the kilogram-and-a-half that he had hoped he could, but Treloar learned after the race that the horse had lost a front shoe and had been forced to run the last 1400 metres of the 2400-metre race without any protection on a foot that has been troubled by an abscess.

"They had bet 12-1 and I thought it was a good chance, so had backed it to win a couple of grand, but when I considered all these elements, I thought, 'Oh well, that's racing'," Treloar, pictured, said yesterday.

But it was later, while discussing the race in the jockeys' room, that Treloar discovered just how remarkable the losing-the-shoe incident was. "I said to the boys, 'Oh well, I won't ever see that shoe again' and one of them said, 'That's not it over there is it?' and pointed to one on a table. Lo and behold it was. I said, 'Where did it come from?' and the jockey said it was found tangled up in the tail of one of the other horses."

It turned out a horse called Landslide had returned to scale with the shoe caught up in its tail and despite having it dangling near its hind legs for most of the race, the Aaron Purcell-trained four-year-old managed to finish sixth out of 12. "Talk about a million to one chance," said Treloar. "If I hadn't seen everything in racing, I reckon I have now."

Dane Quest - Seahorse

From The Age newspaper - January 20, 2006

'Colt takes to the wet and lands in hot water'
by Stephen Howell

Watch out for Dane Quest when he has his first start; he's a swimmer — literally. In fact, he is lucky he is not at the bottom of Port Phillip Bay.

The two-year-old Danehill-Fern colt, an expensive buy at $700,000 as a yearling, stumbled and kicked apprentice rider Peter Hamilton and broke his collarbone when he was exercising him in the water at Carrum Beach for trainer Robbie Laing last week. And then headed out to sea.

"He just took off. Must have thought he was a seahorse," Laing said yesterday of the colt that "goes pretty good".

"Instead of coming into shore, he swam for an hour. He went out about a kilometre at different points of his swim."

Laing said he rang an ambulance for Hamilton and, after emergency services "weren't interested" in rescuing the horse, rang one of the owners, Ken Matthews, who lives nearby at Patterson Lakes.

"I rang the owner to see if the horse was insured because I'd convinced myself he'd drown," Laing said. "He had time to speak to a friend, who had a boat moored at Patterson River marina, drove down, launched the boat and came down the river towards Seaford."

When the boat reached Carrum, Laing gave King's Arch, the horse he had been riding, to a swimmer to hold and jumped aboard.

"We went right out around past him and just hunted him back into shore," he said. "He'd been swimming for an hour."

Laing, who trains at Lyndhurst, regularly takes his horses to swim at nearby Carrum. He said if one broke free in the water, it came back to any companions. Not Dane Quest.

The colt appears to have taken no ill-effects, but is being given a break. "We're sort of scared that he did take some salt water into his lungs and if we put him under the pressure of a gallop, something could happen," Laing explained.

... and from the Sydney Morning Herald

'Going Swimmingly' by Max Presnell

Last week when Dane Quest, a $700,000 yearling purchase, headed for Tasmania after what started out to be a leisurely swim in Port Phillip Bay, trainer Robbie Laing did the responsible thing - rang the owner and asked if the two-year-old was insured.

Fortunately the owner, Ken Matthews, lives nearby and, while Dane Quest was indeed covered, Matthews sought out a friend with a boat and went to the rescue. Before heading out to sea, Dane Quest had ditched his apprentice rider, Peter Hamilton, breaking the lad's collarbone. Laing called emergency services, who "weren't interested" about the horse. Finally, after an hour in the water, Dane Quest was rounded into shore by the rescue team, headed by Laing, who had left a stablemate in the care of a swimmer.

It was hardly a marathon by comparison with other major feats of equine endurance at sea. Regal Rhythm, trained by the late Tommy Smith, once did La Perouse to Kurnell and returned without any harm, while Davalomarne, another with Smith at the time, got loose at Coogee and went well past Wedding Cake Island before returning. Both won their next starts. Possibly the most famous, though, was Moiffa, a New Zealander exported to Great Britain more than a century ago. Moiffa was shipwrecked and given up as lost at sea but was found on a Channel Island. Moiffa went on to win the 1904 Grand National at Aintree. After mountainous waves, the obstacles at Aintree were pony's play.

Follow Dane Quest.

Priceless Price

From Brisban'e Courier-Mail newspaper - February 20, 2006

'Priceless Price has no time to rest on her laurels'
by Bart Sinclair

TOOWOOMBA mum Melanie Price may have snatched the national spotlight with her Australian record four winners at Eagle Farm on Saturday but it was back to work at 5am yesterday.

After a restless night – "I was too excited to get a wink of sleep" – Price, 28, was up pre-dawn to make the 45-minute drive to the Dalby track to ride in barrier trials before heading home for lunch and a rest.

It was a catnap well deserved after Price left veteran Brisbane racegoers scratching their heads as she stormed home on Pure Energy ($3), Fair Ace ($26), Adavale Hornet ($3.70) and Partridge ($41).

No female, let alone an apprentice jockey riding at only her third metropolitan meeting, has previously ridden four winners at a Saturday meeting in an Australian capital city.

However, pioneering New Zealand jockey Linda Jones did ride a quartet of winners at Te Rapa in October, 1979.

Price and her grandmother Mavis Scott, mother Judy and daughter Nicola, 5, adjourned to Baguette, a restaurant across the road from Eagle Farm after her wins.

"I love a beer but we had a glass of French champagne and oysters," Price revealed yesterday.

"By the end of the night I'd had messages from more than 50 people including a few of the male jockeys like Glen Colless and Paul Hammersley who weren't at Eagle Farm.

"I drove back to Toowoomba and was home by 9.30pm but I was too excited to sleep. I feel a bit hollow now. I could do with a good feed."

Price, who will marry partner Adam Bell in October, said she was indebted to her sister Amanda who lived with her in Toowoomba and did a lot of the home duties and helped get Nicola to school each morning.

The five-year-old Year 1 student at Glennie school in Toowoomba is in her classroom before Price finishes her morning trackwork sessions at Clifford Park track.

"I'm not the best cook. Luckily, Adam and Amanda help out with that side of things. I enjoy a beer after a hard day's work but I eat healthy and my weight stays down around 49kg," she said.

What next? The Melbourne Cup? More children?

"To ride in a Melbourne Cup would be special but really this is all part of my grounding to train my own racehorses," Price said.

"And there might be more children down the track. My first target is just to finish my apprenticeship, which has another two years to go."

In a world once the exclusive domain of men, Price's victories are further evidence of how important women have become in Australian racing.

Judy Price admitted she was not happy when her daughter told her she was quitting school to become a trackwork rider half way through Year 12 in Dalby.

"There were some sharp words. It wasn't my choice for her as a career move. But once she was determined to get involved we supported her all the way," she said.

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bloody well click here to go to the top of the bloody page
bloody well click here to go to the top of the bloody page
bloody well click here to go to the top of the bloody page
bloody well click here to go to the top of the bloody page
bloody well click here to go to the top of the bloody page