Yorke performs a double hat-trick

THE first four winners in succession then beaten in the final bound in the fifth. Not a bad day at the office for Coffs Harbour trainer Gordon Yorke.

The New Zealand-born thoroughbred mentor, big enough and strong enough to wrestle a Mallee bull, equalled his best ever training performance at the Grafton race meeting (transferred from Coffs Harbour) yesterday.

And didn't he wax lyrical.

Amazingly, yesterday's four star performance was almost identical to his first training quartet at Wyong more than a decade ago.

“I trained four in a row when I was at Wyong as a young bloke that could train a bit,” Yorke said.

“The fifth horse got beaten a nose.

“The only other time I did it (four wins) was at home (Coffs Harbour) last year.

“Today, with the wet track, it was in the lap of the gods. When you've got lemons, you make lemonade.”

Yorke's four winners yesterday - Stupendous, Lebrechaun, One Lickety Split and Star Of Filante - had bookies reeling. Every winner was well backed, particularly debutant One Lickety Split, who Yorke rates as 'maybe my best ever horse'.

Yorke crossed the Tasman to set up shop in Wyong in 1977, moved to Gosford then settled in Coffs Harbour five years ago.

He created national headlines when unheralded Fire Oak became the first maiden to win the prestigious Victoria Derby in 1990. A succession of top class horses like Natural Destiny, Nuclear Medicine, Pimpala Prince, Kalperra, Scarlet Major and Our Boy Red have followed.

“How old are you these days Gordie?” Yorke was asked.

“I'm a couple of holes into the back nine. I've seen the best years of racing.”

Yorke, opinionated, blasé at times and with a stoic belief in his training regime that differs from mainstream exponents, still gets excited when a good horse comes under his care. Three-year-old Lebrechaun and One Lickety Split fit that category.

Yorke even likened Lebrechaun, a powerfully-built son of Iglesia purchased at the Magic Million sales, to his first Group One winner, Fire Oak.

The gelding scored a dominant 1-3/4 length win in the Mark Palmer Maiden (1220m) yesterday.

“A real nice horse, very smart,” Yorke said.

“I think he can develop into a good type. He's still green, but beautifully bred, stout.

“He's out of a Runyon mare and shouldn't be sprinting like this, but good stayers can do that. I had one called Fire Oak.”

The Queensland Derby, given further development, hasn't been ruled out.

One Lickety Split, owned by his breeder, Queensland-based Colin Clark, beat the older horses winning the Mick Cottell Maiden (1100m) by 2-1/4 lengths.

He raced wide - five deep on straightening - but lengthened stride quickly in the run home, with the manner of the win even impressing chief steward Bill Fanning.

“For a young horse to do that shows he's pretty good,” Fanning said.

“He's a knob, something special,” Yorke said.

“The owner deserves all the accolades. He looked after him as a young horse.

“He's just kept doing things better and better. I think he may be the best horse I've had.”

Jockey Peter Graham partnered Stupendous, Lebrechaun and One Lickety Split with Yorke's apprentice Shiro Shirahama aboard Star Of Filante. Coffs Harbour Racing Club president Alan Johnson, grateful to the Clarence River Jockey Club for hosting the meeting, quipped after Yorke's quartet: “We even had to bring our own winners.”

Yorke's winning run was halted by bright young Port Macquarie trainer Wayne Wilkes when King Shane grabbed the Yorke-trained Prince Cashe in the final bound of the Barry Cook Ratings Based 62 Hcp (1420m).

“Someone had to put a stop to Yorkey,” Wilkes said with a laugh.

Wilkes, who scored a treble at Taree on Saturday, later scored with Serene Lodge-owned Our Jetsetter in the Mark & Malcolm Mercer Hcp (1420m). Both horses were ridden by Danny Peisley.

Graftonians had to wait until the final event for any joy, with the Greg Howells-trained Frisco Miss leading throughout to win the Chris & Michelle Worboys Hcp (1220m), ridden by Ben Looker.



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