CHRISTMAS came on December 1 for popular Warrnambool trainer Merv McKenzie after his sprinter A Good Yarn won a restricted $35,000 race at his home track on Sunday.
A Good Yarn defeated Strategic Force and Sagarra in the 1000 metre scamper. The win came with a $25,000 small trainer's bonus to McKenzie courtesy of philanthropist Bill Gibbins.
The bonus at the Jericho Cup meeting is for the trainer with the least amount of horses in their stable who can have a winner on the nine race program. Gibbins, who came up with the idea of the Jericho Cup and the financial support to make the day an outstanding success said it was great to hand over the $25,000 to McKenzie.
"I love looking after the battlers," Gibbins said. "It's a great result for Merv. The concept of the $25,000 has been well received from the smaller trainers."
McKenzie was delighted to win the financial bonus. "The $25,000 is an early Christmas present," he said. "The whole thing has blown me away. It's just wonderful to see the smaller trainers are thought about. "The win is one for the battlers - so many times everything is focussed on the big trainers. I had a good chat with Bill after A Good Yarn's win and he's just a down to earth good bloke. The $25,000 is a massive result for my family and I'll make sure my stable staff including Gina McDonald and Mark Warren get something for the work they put in."
A Good Yarn had been unlucky at his three previous runs before Sunday's win, according to the veteran trainer. "There were excuses for A Good Yarn's past three failures," he said. "He's a difficult horse to place because of his consistency. We'll just try and find another suitable race for him in a few weeks. He's not a bad horse when everything goes alright."
From his 15 starts A Good Yarn has won five races and collected more then $94,000 in stakemoney for his connections.
Cup ticks boxes
SUNDAY'S Jericho Cup meeting ticked a lot of boxes, according to Victoria Racing Minister Martin Pakula. The Minister, who was trackside said the foundations are in place to make the meeting a big event on the Warrnambool racing calendar. "It was an amazing experience to be at the meeting," Pakula said.
"The atmosphere was incredible and despite the wintry weather the meeting was a big success not only for the Warrnambool Racing Club but also for racing in general. I'm sure the meeting can really grow in the future. The day had a wonderful vibe about it. I must acknowledge the hard work that Bill Gibbins has put into making the event. He's put a lot of time, money and resources to make the day a wonderful event. It's only the second running of the Jericho Cup but it's creating great interest around Australia and in New Zealand."
Meanwhile, Warrnambool Racing Club CEO Tom O'Connor was happy with the crowd numbers of just over 3500 people compared to 4200 in its first year in 2018. "It was a great crowd considering the weather," O'Connor said. "We had been watching the weather forecast closely for the week regarding Sunday and it never looked good but we're happy with the result. I'm confident with fine weather and the Matilda Room upgrade finished we'll have a massive crowd for next year's Jericho Cup meeting."
VETERAN jockey Luke Williams has his fingers crossed 2020 will be a better year for the 45-year-old hoop. Williams made a return to race riding with a win on Silence The Stars in a restricted race over 2000 metres at the big Jericho Cup meeting at Warrnambool on Sunday.
"I had torn the ligaments in my left shoulder in a trial back in October," the Warrnambool based jockey said. "It's been a slow process to get the shoulder right but I'm back on track now and hoping to boot home a few more winners."
Williams, who has a dual jockey-trainer licence, had the small finger on his left hand amputated in June. "I had made a good recovery from my finger injury and then I was sidelined with the shoulder problem," he said. "I've got seven in work at my on-course Warrnambool stables. Things are going along well on the training side of things. I should have a couple of runners within the next few weeks."
Silence The Stars is trained by Stawell trainer Deanne Taylor.
BALLARAT trained galloper Californiagrandcru earnt a start in next year's Jericho Cup after winning the Repechage over 4065 metres at Warrnambool on Sunday, for the husband and wife jockey and training combination of Lee Horner and Amy McDonald.
Horner, who has had a year to forget after suffering two race falls said Californiagrandcru was a work in progress.
"It's just great to be back out there riding in races," the popular jumps jockey said. "Amy does a big job with the training. I think Californiagrandcru may make the grade as a jumper. We're heading over to Bali at the end of the week for a short break but on January 1 we should have a dozen jumpers in work preparing for the 2020 jumps season.
The Jericho Cup founder Bill Gibbins is among a large group of owners in Californiagrandcru
Jericho a must
RACING syndicator Terry Henderson cancelled a trip to the broodmare sales in England to attend the Jericho Cup meeting at Warrnambool on Sunday. Henderson sponsored one of the races on the nine race program and had Plymouth Road run in the $300,000 Jericho Cup. "I just had to come to the running of the Jericho Cup," Henderson said. "I just admire what Bill Gibbins has done to put the Jericho Cup on the map. He's a wonderful Australian and a top supporter of racing."
Henderson's colours will be seen on his veteran galloper Gailo Chop in the $1 million Kingston Town Classic at Ascot this Saturday.
JOCKEY Dean Holland pleaded guilty to a careless riding charge following his ride on First Watch at Wodonga on Friday. Stewards found Holland permitted First Watch near the 250 metre mark to shift out making contact and inconveniencing Didn't Even Kiss Me which was taken out onto Straover which was restrained to avoid heels. Holland's suspension commences December 3 and ends December 11. The incident was deemed by the stewards to be in the low range.