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Two great days of racing at Echuca

Wodonga trainer Brian Cox claimed the $70,000 Moama RSL Echuca Cup with five-year-old mare Minnie Downs.

LUKE MCMANUS March 10, 2014 4:53am

Punters enjoy the race at Echuca.


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Local connections of the Gwenda Johnstone-trained What a Snitz were treated to an emphatic victory in yesterday’s Shadoways Sprint, which capped off a brilliant weekend of racing at the Echuca Cup Carnival.

About 3000 people enjoyed the afternoon sunshine during the two-day carnival and were treated to some top-quality racing.

Gallery: More pics from the Echuca Cup Carnival 2014

The $40,000 Shadoways Sprint, named after Johnstone’s champion gelding, was claimed by What a Snitz ($17) with a strong finish.

With the early speed, in which the four-year-old jumped to a two-length lead, jockey Jack Hill eased her back to allow Snip the Dancer to set the pace for most of the 1400m race.

After catching the leader in the final straight, What a Snitz looked fatigued just as the Peter Moody-trained Bel Seal applied some pressure on the outside.

Catching a glimpse of her rival, Johnstone’s filly found a second wind to hold off Bel Seal in an epic photo-finish.

‘‘It’s a great thrill to win at your home track,’’ Mick Johnstone said.

‘‘She had plenty of gate speed, she hit the ground running, the inside horse (Snip the Dancer) eventually hit the lead which suited her and allowed her to follow.

‘‘She was under pressure with 600m to go, but Jack (Hill) kept riding her hard.

‘‘Just as she looked to have the race won, she spotted the horse (Bel Seal) on the outside and kicked on to get her nose in front to win.

‘‘She’s a tough filly and the win was well-deserved.’’

Wodonga trainer Brian Cox also walked away a happy man after claiming the $70,000 Moama RSL Echuca Cup.

Cox’s five-year-old mare Minnie Downs came from behind to claim the feature race by a photo finish, defeating the Peter Moody-trained Kitten On The Run by a nose.

After spending most of the race three back on the rails, jockey Regan Bayliss found a way out of congestion in a final-straight flurry, storming home to secure the gutsy win.

Echuca Racing Club chief executive Alex Doble said the Wodonga-based trainer knew the Echuca track well, yesterday’s triumph handed Cox his third win at Echuca in six months.

‘‘Great to see Brian win here again and take home the cup, he was over the moon,’’ Doble said.

‘‘There’s not many runs at Echuca in which Brian and connections aren’t a part of.’’

‘‘It was great to see Brian have so much faith in apprentice Regan Bayliss.

‘‘He (Bayliss) told me after the race that he turned to Linda (Linda Meech, jockey on Kitten On The Run) and asked whether he had won — even he didn’t know at the line.’’

The district’s hopes rested on the shoulders of Echuca-based trainers John Thomas and Dean Boal.

Thomas’ Offshore Echo, ridden by Josh Cartwright, finished seventh after trailing the pack for the opening 700m of the race, picking up four places in time for the winning post.

Boal raced his four-year-old mare Luperini at Swan Hill on Friday and was a late scratching for the cup.

Doble said despite mixed results from local trainers over the two days, Johnstone’s win was a consolation prize.

‘‘It was a really good weekend,’’ Doble said.

‘‘Echuca embodies the relaxed racing strategy which caters for everyone.

‘‘The win added something to the day, the locals really got behind Gwenda in this race.

‘‘Our trainers work very hard and to reach success at their home track means a lot.’’

Doble said the crowd was well-behaved over the two days with no incidents apart from ‘‘only a few objections’’ which reflected the club’s stance on responsible service of alcohol.

Saturday was the annual ladies’ day, with Home and Away stars Lincoln Lewis and Nic Westaway mingling with the crowd of about 200 in the marquee.

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