Wayne Lawson with one of his charges in his stables at Grafton.
Wayne Lawson with one of his charges in his stables at Grafton. Adam Hourigan

Henry's troublesome horse now helping his return

GRAFTON horse trainer Wayne Lawson should look at calling his talented galloper Stella's Chance, Second Chance after its poignant win last week at Grafton.

Nearly two years ago a swab of the same horse tested positive for the banned substance, cobalt, landing the popular trainer a 12-month ban.

After his last win, Lawson said he was mulling over a tilt at the Grafton Cup Prelude and possibly the Grafton Cup with his five-year-old gelding.

Not that the Grafton trainer, better known as Henry, was at the track to cheer home Stella's Chance in the $20,000 Sky Racing Benchmark Handicap (2210m).

He was far to the south, in fact in Hobart on what is known as the Rough Trip Tour, a tour organised by former Grafton race caller Steve Hawkins for a group of racing mates from all over the nation.

Every year Hawkins picks a destination and the merry band of "punters” follow. Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Sydney, Newcastle, even little old Holbrook have been the destinations.

Wayne is one of the Grafton tourists. Clarence River Jockey Club committeemen Steve Haines and Terry 'Fearless' Green are also on board.

Green also shares a link with Lawson in that he is one of the owners of Stella's Chance. So, too, 'first-timer' on the tour, Paul McKenzie.

When Stella's Chance kicked clear at the top of the Grafton straight, the pair of owners were cheering loudly with Lawson in the racing bar at the Wrest Point Casino.

He was confident too and the betting showed that after he and his owners took $9. Stella's Chance started at $4.80.

Lawson is now thinking of preparing Stella's Chance for a midyear crack at the Grafton Cup Prelude before a possible Grafton Cup run.

That Stella's Chance won on Thursday was also a special result.

"He was the horse I got disqualified on,” Wayne said.

In early 2016 Stella's Chance registered a positive swab to the outlawed cobalt.

Wayne was disqualified for 12 months, appealed, but had the original decision upheld and spent 12 months out of racing.

It couldn't have come at a worse time for him. An electrician, he had just decided to scale back his "sparkying” and give training much of his attention.

"It did come at a bad time,” he said.

"I spent the first six months cranky but I travelled around a bit too. Came down here (Tasmania) for a while and also followed my daughter (Samira) around. She was playing hockey for NSW (Under-16 and 18s).

Lawson knows he did nothing wrong. He has no idea how the cobalt registered and still struggles with the knowledge other trainers have been affected in the same way as he has.

"Stella was a $1.50 favourite that day,” he said. "It wasn't like he was 10-1 and backed into 4s.”

There was no reason to dope Stella's Chance. His race fitness and natural ability got him home.

Now Wayne is trying to rebuild his career and making a pretty good fist of it with three winners since he's been back.

Dominant Crown, who has won two, placed second twice and fifth at the Gold Coast, is being set for the Northern Rivers Racing Association Country Championship Qualifier at Grafton on March 11.

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