By Craig Kelly (Newcastle Herald)
Locals stood tall at Newcastle’s inaugural The Hunter race day with breakthrough wins for Upper Hunter trainers Andrew Robinson and John Ramsey, as well as victories for Newcastle jockeys Sammie Clenton and Andrew Gibbons.
Muswellbrook trainer Robinson took out the $75,000 1300m class 3 Highway Handicap with Trophies Galore before Scone horseman Ramsey claimed the $125,000 benchmark 78 handicap (1400m) for fillies and mares with Pinup Miss.
Under Gibbons, Trophies Galore ($9.50) sat three wide but with cover from barrier 13 before finishing strongly to win by three-quarters of a length.
The four-year-old mare, which carried 54 kilograms, had won three of 12 starts and was coming off a first-up victory at Muswellbrook.
“We were really happy when the weights came out, dropping six kilos, but when we saw barrier 16, we were devastated,” Robinson said.
“But Gibbo had to ride her for luck and we got away with it, so we’re absolutely rapt.
“She’s got terrific form and she probably should have won a couple more but for bad barriers, but she’s tough, she’s genuine, and nothing bothers her.
“It’s her first crack at a city race, and mine as well, so I’m thrilled, especially to have a bunch of owners like this.”
Robinson has a team of six but was looking to expand and “after today, we might have a few more coming in”.
“It’s a massive thrill, it’s a great day for the Hunter,” he said. “Racing NSW, and Mr V’landys, he’s done so much for us right across the state. Us country trainers, he’s helped us immensely with prizemoney increases.”
Gibbons was pleased to get a win on the big day.
“From that tricky alley, I got a great run,” Gibbons said. “They flowed nicely in front of me, and the one that got caught wide in front of me just pressed on the corner and it made it easy for me to get to the outside.
“I’ve always had a good opinion of her and thought she’d get to that grade, so it was good to see her do it so early this prep.
“Any Saturday city winner is good, but to do it on my home track on the first ever The Hunter day was that extra bit special.”