Ocean Journey is driven up the outside by jockey Allan Chau (in yellow) to win the Tooheys Old Handicap.
Ocean Journey is driven up the outside by jockey Allan Chau (in yellow) to win the Tooheys Old Handicap. JoJo Newby

Odd day sees 'unbelievable' win

BIZARRE is the best way to describe an unusual gambit of events at yesterday’s Grafton races.

The meeting ended prematurely, two races shy of completing the 10-race program when stewards, following discussions with riders after race eight, deemed visibility unsafe for racing. Many jockeys were hardly recognisable when they returned covered in mud.

Despite horses parading in the saddling enclosure, stewards ordered them back and delayed the running of race eight, due at 3.50pm, when lightning strikes, fierce winds and a savage storm threatened. Amazingly, the event was conducted 40 minutes later, but rider and horse safety took precedence bringing a sudden but prudent end to the meeting.

Earlier, local trainer Graeme Want was left bewildered after Harley Down scored one of the most amazing wins ever witnessed at Grafton. However, his joy was tempered, when stewards post race ordering the erratic four-year-old to trial before racing again.

Backed from $6 into $3.50, Harley Down (Terry Triechel), owned and bred by Andrew Hayes, son of former Country Racing chairman Stan Hayes, got off the canvas to win the Tooheys Extra Dry 5 Ceeds Cider Maiden (1200m).

“I was ready to rip the ticket up – thought he was gone,” Want said after Harley Down suffered a series of setbacks that saw him drop back to last at the 600m.

Somehow, the gelding weaved between runners, overcame another check in the straight, to score by a long neck from Wind Of Dubai and Ozzibelle. “I’ve only had him a couple of weeks. That was an amazing win after the trouble he struck,” Want said.

The manner of the win prompted Northern Rivers chief steward to declare at a post-race inquiry: “In my opinion, that was an unbelievable win, especially after the way he raced in the early stages.”

Harley Down missed the start, resented racing inside horses, got its head up several times when being restrained, raced on one rein and hung out. It was a nightmare ride for Triechel.

Want said he would remove blinkers from Harley Down.

Backers weren’t complaining after the mini plonk but those who supported favourite Silencio ($2.80) in the Tooheys Old Benchmark 60 Hcp (1000m), were left gasping and out of pocket.

After leading, the Brett Dodson-trained mare finished over nine lenghths astern, last. Dodson revealed Silencio pulled up distressed. “The vet said her heart rate was 140, normally after they race, a high reading is 90,” he said. “I don’t know what the problem is.”

Dodson intends having Silencio scoped and blood taken before reporting back to stewards.

Dale Spriggs ended the day king of the jocks with a winning treble aboard the Vicki McLeod-trained Tzanann, Secret Affairs and Freddy Or Not, prepared by Sue Grills at Tamworth.

Paddy Cunningham produced Ocean Journey, formerly prepared by Lee Freedman and Robert Heathcote, to score an upset win at $13 and Cathleen Rode saddled up Legal Star ($15) to win its third race for the trainer.

“If he didn’t do something today he was headed back to the paddock,” Rode suggested. “He’s been finnicky with his feed and has got a funny back end.”

Oh, and just to round off, only two bookmakers fielded yesterday.

How the times are a changin’.

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