Riding on emotion
By TONY WHITE
"RUNYO and Leanne Frankland are going to score a memorable victory."
The prophetic words from race caller Damien Seaton reverberated around Grafton racecourse yesterday soothing broken hearts, Runyo's win, the catalyst for an outpouring of high emotion.
In a fairytale script, Frankland scored a breathtaking win in the In Memory Of Alan Abrahams Maiden (1600m), named after her late partner who died in a car accident just outside Grafton last Monday.
Abrahams, 'The Black Pearl,' was the former trainer of Runyo.
Runyo and Frankland returned to a hero's welcome.
The reception was befitting a Grafton Cup winner.
The 31-year-old apprentice broke down in a flood of tears as she attempted to unsaddle the four-year-old gelding now trained by Stephen Beetson.
"Unbelievable, thank you Alan, thank you Lord," Frankland said, as she looked thankfully up to the heavens.
She had earlier thrust her whip in the air as Runyo crossed the line, a clear winner a la Damien Oliver's 2002 Melbourne Cup win aboard Media Puzzle after his brother Jason was killed in Perth leading up to the nation stopper.
Abrahams family, his sisters Karen from Gympie, Bernie and Ethne from Brisbane, his brother
n Continued: P46.
Kevin from Perth, who had gathered in Grafton from Monday night, cried tears of joy.
"Alan had a heart of gold," Bernie said.
"He'd take the shirt of his back for you. He was just a lovely boy," Karen added. "What a fitting result."
Even the eyes of hardened racing men moistened. It was a numbing, eerie feeling but joyous nonetheless.
Congratulatory hugs abounded. A large crowd lined the mounting enclosure all jostling to be part of the special moment.
"There is a God," one onlooker shouted.
"This makes you believe in that sort of thing," chief steward Bill Fanning said.
"Scary isn't it," Coffs Harbour trainer Gordon York claimed amid the emotion-charged euphoria.
Frankland again broke down when she returned to the ladies jockey' room. She was quickly consoled by well wishers.
"Beautiful, just beautiful," she said after regaining her composure. "I just felt like he (Abrahams) was there all the way with me.
"I'm just so glad this (winning the race) has happened.
"On the way to the barriers I just kept saying 'come on Al we're going to do this.'
"In the run I kept thinking how Alan would have wanted him ridden, all the things he'd taught me.
"When I went past Mossie (jockey Darron Coleman) he yelled 'go get 'em Leanne'. I was just hoping Alan wouldn't have to kick my butt for taking off too early.
"Over the last 100 metres I was yelling at the horse, begging him to keep going.
"I'm just so glad I could win it for him (Abrahams) and for Strap (Peter McLellan). He deserved this too."
After swooping on the leaders soon after straightening Runyo, running on divine legs, dashed away for an eight-length win from Dan's Gold, also formerly trained by Abrahams and Never Wrong.
"I'm speechless," Runyo's owner, bookmaker Brendan Richards said trying to hold his emotions in check. "This is a big, big moment."
Beetson said: "This is very fitting. It couldn't be better. I'm sure Alan is looking down from heaven laughing his head off."
McLellan was simply chuffed as he remembered his mate.
"Terrific, amazing. Unless Alan was here it couldn't be any better."
Pre-race all jockeys lined the mounting yard to pay respects to their deceased comrade and a minute's silence was observed.
"We've lost one of our close mates, a great bloke," Sky Channel announcer and former jockey Gary Kleise said.
There was drama when jockey Adam Nicholls collapsed and was treated by ambulance officers.
Clarence River Jockey Club chairman Bob Pavitt said of Abrahams during a speech: "That's what everyone best remembers about Alan, he was always smiling."
So too were the gods yester- day.