Change of fortunes
By TONY WHITE
PRE-race local trainer Terry Commerford was usure what to think.
His bonny mare Aquatic Drive had gone 16 races without winning.
Frustration had begun to set in.
The mare had continued to work well, but on raceday Lady Luck had deserted the camp.
At Grafton yesterday fortunes changed for the better when Aquatic Drive got up in the final bound to win the Good As Gold Open Hcp (1750m).
Amid cheers from local supporters, the mare, under hard riding from jockey Matthew Paget, prevailed to edge out early leader Counter Agent in the closing stages.
Aquatic Drive, the winner of seven from 40 starts, is destined for a career at stud as a broodmare at the end of the 2004-05 racing season.
"The last time she won was here (Grafton)," Commerford said. "Obviously she likes her home track.
"She's been an honest mare but often raced without luck.
"It's great to see her back in the winners' circle."
Commerford praised winning jockey Matthew Pagent.
"He's my man of the moment," Commerford said. "But I'm sorry for Craig (Franklin), her regular trackwork rider who couldn't rider her today due to suspension."
Commerford intends setting Aquatic Drive for a 2000m race at Grafton in three weeks.
"I'm not setting my sights too high," he said. "Hopefully she can win a few more races before going to stud."
On a day when local trainers did battle with a horde of visiting horses, Grafton-trained thoroughbreds won three of the seven races on the TAB program.
Veteran trainer Eric Watkins was delighted after another mare, Dexter's Cat won the Farwell To Zarby Maiden Plate (1200m).
Late last year Watkins renewed his trainers' licence after several owners of the daughter of English stallion Dexter wanted out.
He now races the four-year-old with his wife Dorothy, or Kaye to her friends.
Watkins, who has a grazing property just outside of Grafton and trained for 35 years, paid $3500 for Dexter's Cat as a yearling at the Tamworth sales.
The mare was formerly trained by John Shelton.
"She's a labour of love," Watkins said. "She's probably cost me a bit since we brought her and even after today I don't know if I'm ahead."
Nicknamed 'Decky,' the mare, ridden by apprentice Danny Preisley, beat Fern Street and Donovaly.
"Cliff Lai didn't turn up and I booked Zac Purton but the stewards said we have to have an apprentice so Danny stepped in," Watkins said.
Watkins is best known as the trainer of Lismore and Ballina Cup winner Star Cobbler.
The John Shelton-trained Sircolo kept the local flag flying when successful in the South Grafton Ex-Serviceman's Club Class 5 Hcp (1200m).
Ridden by Andrew Parramore, the Four-year-old grey gelding, scored by a length over leader Wrog Doing with Coffs Harbour-trained Striking Time 3/4 of a length away in third.