The Gunbower Pacing Cup returned to Gunbower for the first time in seven years on Sunday, with a healthy crowd attending the harness meet.By Geordie Cowan
Hopetoun Park trainer Ross Sugars claimed the first Gunbower Family Hotel Gunbower Pacing Cup in seven years when driver Greg Sugars steered nine-year-old bay gelding Veranjee over the line first at Gunbower yesterday.
The pre-race favourite just edged a close battle with Dual Agent Tabman by half a neck for the win, with Jukebox Music running a close third.
About 1100 people saw the result at the track, after earlier Riley Fortin became the first driver to lead a winner at Gunbower since 2005 when he won the first race of the day behind My Mums A Star, trained by Kialla’s David Farrar.
In a thrilling finish, the four-year-old favourite just held on to claim the win ahead of Greg Caldwell’s Catchthateye and Rodney Petroff’s Metrofromelle by a head and a neck respectively.
Lightning Joy claimed the Bill Poxon Memorial Gunbower Trotters Cup, leading throughout the race to claim a win ahead of Sparks Ignite, while Alina took out the Vicbred Platinum Mares Sprint Championship (fourth heat).
Moama trainer Mal Whiteford claimed the inaugural Gunbower Hot Lap, with Kamwood Jack winning by a head from Hezfullarunning after being the outside leader at the bell, while favourites winning by close margins seemed to be a theme throughout the day.
Earlier, the track was officially re-opened by Racing Minister Denis Napthine, Member for Rodney Paul Weller and GHRC president Roger Brereton.
‘‘It is fantastic and a great win for the Gunbower community and for Paul Weller as the local member,’’ Napthine said of the return.
‘‘It’s been a long time since we’ve had harness racing here and to have it back here, it’s just terrific to see a good crowd.
‘‘It is a terrific track and this is great for local economy, great for jobs and great for the psyche of this country community.’’
Weller said, after campaigning through the last turn of parliament, it was pleasing to see the return of harness racing to Gunbower.
‘‘It’s great to be here, actually deliver and see the crowd here, the Gunbower community,’’ he said.
‘‘It is very upbeat and they are very proud to have their cup day back at Gunbower.’’
Club president Brereton thanked the support of the government in returning the club’s biggest meet to its home track.
‘‘After seven years away we were so excited to come back to a magnificent track and, without the help of the government, we couldn’t have done it,’’ he said.
‘‘It has helped the whole community, including the cricket club, the tennis club and angling club.’’
It was those sorts of things which made these returns to country clubs so important, Napthine said.
‘‘It’s not just about racing,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s all the people who do the gate, do the food, do all the other things that has a huge flow-on effect for the whole community and huge economic benefit for the whole community and that’s what country racing’s about and that’s why we’re pleased to support Gunbower harness racing.’’
The healthy crowd was boosted by a young farmers lunch at the course, at which Victorian Farmers Federation president Peter Tuohey was the guest speaker.
‘‘Young farmers have the chance to get together and network so they can talk about the issues affecting specifically to themselves,’’ Weller said.
Gunbower secretary Peter O’Shea was pleased with how the day transpired.
‘‘It was very, very pleasing for everybody,’’ he said.
‘‘We had a good turnout for a Sunday arvo and the atmosphere was very good, with a lot of young kids and family in attendance, which is what we’re trying to promote.’’
O’Shea said the club was also pleased with the response from district farmers to the day, while the racing also proved a highlight.
‘‘The (Gunbower Pacing) Cup was won by a good horse in good form and the time was pretty good over a long distance,’’ he said.
‘‘The trotters cup was a good race and the new hot lap, which had a mile rate of about 1:54, had a lot of interest in it.
‘‘It was on from go to whoa.
‘‘I’d like to thank all the people who came along, the committee for working so hard to get it back and invite everyone to our next meeting at Echuca on December 18.’’
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