COLOURFUL Colac trainer Bill Cerchi missed his first Dunkeld Cup meeting on Saturday in more than 20 years but he had good reason he was recovering from a double-bypass heart operation.
Long-time stable client Professor Richard Harper, who is one of the heads of the cardiology unit at the Monash Hospital, organised the operation.
Cerchi only left hospital last Friday but still had input into the win of Mr Chuckle at Dunkeld.
Mr Chuckle defeated Nordic Monarch by more than a length in the $15,000 restricted race over 1000 metres.
"Michelle McDonald has been looking after things at the stable for the past fortnight," the 58-year-old trainer said.
"She's been working for me for five years. She's a great worker. We had a few long chats about how Mr Chuckle should be ridden at Dunkeld.
"I've been lucky because fellow Colac trainers Daryl Cannon, Len Porter and Mark Young have been giving a hand. The trainers at Colac are a close-knit bunch. We're all there to help each other when help is needed and this time I've needed the help."
Cerchi said he was back on track to good health and the dogged win by Mr Chuckle will help his recovery.
"The doctors tell me it will take three months before I'm going really good again. They told me it was a pretty big operation.
"I had been crook for a fair while probably about a year. The tests had showed that I was right but when they had a good look they found a couple of blockages.
"My family has had a history of heart problems. It's just something that runs in the family now that I've had the operation they reckon I'll be right for 20 years. It was a good win by Mr Chuckle. I knew he would be hard to beat."
Cerchi said Mr Chuckle's long-term aim may be a 975-metre race under lights at Moonee Valley.
Mr Chuckle has won two of his nine starts with four minor placings to his credit.
CIARON Maher is confident his flagship galloper Moudre is destined for a successful autumn preparation following his decision to spell the seven-year-old after his eighth placing in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Flemington on November 10.
Maher had entered Moudre in last Saturday's Sandown Cup and Zipping Classic but cancelled those plans, deciding to give the galloper a good break and get him ready for the autumn.
"We've been playing catch-up with Moudre for the whole of the spring," Maher said.
"He had a shoulder niggle and then a blood complaint but he's right now. He's gone to the paddock in top order.
"We're sure he will derive great benefit from a six-week break in the paddock. Our main aim with him for the spring had been the Melbourne Cup but we just missed out with him. There are a few nice races over the autumn which should suit him."
Meanwhile, Maher's top-class steeplechaser Bashboy is an unlikely runner in next year's Warrnambool Grand Annual Steeplechase.
Bashboy captured the attention of jumps followers with brilliant wins in this year's Crisp and Grand National steeplechases but the 31-year-old trainer said it was unlikely the galloper would run at Warrnambool.
"I don't think we'll take Bashboy to Warrnambool for the Grand Annual. He seemed to really like the Sandown track where he won the Crisp and the Grand National. I think we'll set him for next year's Crisp and Grand National again," Maher said.
"He's a quality steeplechaser who is enjoying a good break now. "
Bashboy has won five of his six starts in jumps races. He has earned in excess of $270,000 in stakemoney for his efforts over fences.
GEELONG trainer Michael Roebuck sang the praises of his former boss, top Caulfield trainer Mick Price, following the debut win of Churchelle in a 1000-metre maiden at Dunkeld on Saturday.
Roebuck held the job as stable foreman for Price for three years before branching out in his own right as a trainer.
"I learnt a lot working for Mick Price. He's one of the best trainers," the 30-year-old said.
"Mick gave me a free reign when he attended horses sales overseas. I started my training career working for various trainers in Geelong before getting the job with Mick and then setting up my own stable."
Roebuck said he was quietly confident that Churchelle would run well after she trialled well at Geelong.
"Before the race my biggest worry was whether she would run out a strong 1000 metres. She had trialled well over 600 metres on three occasions at Geelong," Roebuck said. "She's always shown a bit of ability. I've got nothing major planned for her. I'll just take her home and see how she pulls up before making any plans."
Churchelle's win was Roebuck's seventh from 45 runners over the past three years. The four-year-old mare picked up $9000 in stakemoney for her connections after the win.
GOOD runs to finish second at Bairnsdale and Swan Hill paved the way for Tricky Glen to win his maiden at Dunkeld on Saturday, according to his trainer Brendan McCarthy.
The respected Caulfield trainer said Tricky Glen's victory in the 1000-metre race was no surprise.
"I thought Tricky Glen had to win," McCarthy said.
"His efforts in maiden races at Bairnsdale and Swan Hill to run second on both occasions were excellent for a race like the one at Dunkeld. He missed the start slightly but he was just too good.
"I think there's a lot of scope with Tricky Glen. I reckon he will develop into a good city horse. I think his best distance will be around 1200 metres."
McCarthy revealed Tricky Glen had been bred by Timboon farmer John Rylance.
"My family has had a long association with John for many years. He's breeding his own horses and is having some luck. Tricky Glen is out of John's handy broodmare Gem Of Glen Argyle," McCarthy said.