PUNTERS took a pounding at Echuca races on Saturday afternoon with only one favourite getting up in the nine-race card.
Planned as an eight-race meeting, the flood of entries – a whopping 642 – saw the program extended by a ninth race.
But that didn’t help punters – or local trainers who, despite racing on their home track the best they could do was four seconds.
Winners paid $7.50, $8.60, $5.20, $3.30 (the only favourite to get up), $12.80, $18.30, $20.10, $5.80 and a whopping $38.80 on the lucky last for Melway.
Rhys Archard set the pattern for locals in the first of the day when his four-year-old filly Super Quick Love failed by just one length to catch Michelle Payne on her horse Victory Approach in the $20,700 Blaze Fire Protection over 2100m.
Two races later in the $20,700 Murphy’s Turf and Landscaping maiden over 1100m, Alan Newton’s Pal’s Reward failed by just half a length to the Corstens’ trained Marine Belle.
It was Pal’s Reward’s third start and third placing, showing the gelding’s maiden win is not far away.
Another two races down the track and this time it was the Cornish/Gaskin stable’s moment of frustration – their four-year-old mare Full Ahead caught on the line to finish a head adrift of the unwanted Ubin Thunderstruck, which paid $12.80 to win the $20,000 Think Water Power Echuca BM58 over 1600m.
It was a blanket finish but still the bridesmaid curse held firm.
It struck again in the $20,000 Hygain Handicap over 1300m.
This time veteran trainer Jim Lake’s ever reliable Honorellay tried to win from the front and looked home all the way down the straight before Clean Acheeva just refused to go away and a lunge at the post gave it a short half head and that was more than enough for the lion’s share of the prize money.
The only real highlight of this hard day for local horses and punters was Moorooduc-based trainer Shane Nichols and apprentice rider Will Price.
Nichol’s Arigato jumped well in the $20,000 Bourke Builders Handicap over 1600m and had no trouble taking up the early running.
The three-year-old filly controlled the pace from the front with Price in the saddle riding a clever race for an apprentice – and making the most of his 1.5kg claim.
As they lined up to run into the home turn Arigato, was joined by Paint The Stars, which had drifted in markets to be sent out at 12/1 after being listed at 6/1 overnight.
Into the straight Arigato came off the running rail and the attacks started coming from everywhere.
But at the 200m mark horse and rider seemed to find another gear and even though it was her first start at the classic mile she simply kept pulling away to an emphatic win – her second in her 14 starts.
The duo were back in action four races later with Kingstar Amber in the $20,000 Independent Cranes Handicap over 1100m.
Settling midfield early, Kingstar Amber and Price seemed content to enjoy some cover while the favourite Royal Tike at $3.60 and 10/1 shot Kishida battled for line honours at the head of the race.
By the 200m Royal Tike had shaken off the bolter – and bolted away to be more than two lengths clear.
Which is exactly when the Nichol’s horse got space to run – right down the middle of the track.
Kingstar Amber simply swamped the leaders and raced away to collect her second win in nine starts and complete the double for trainer and jockey.
The I Am Invincible daughter (this star sires stud fee is $209,000) joins a catalogue of his two- and three-year-old winners.