O’Lonhro Bay wins Euroa Cup

By Benalla Ensign

The trainer, the owner and the jockey had a plan to win Sunday’s $20000 McDonald’s Euroa Cup over 1406m at Benalla.

They even told the stewards about it — and then hoped everything would go according to the script.

And were off to a flying start when jockey Tahlia Hope and her horse O’Lonhro Bay landed at the front of the small six-horse cup field.

Just as owner Dee Hope had discussed and planned with trainer/husband Shannon Hope.

One minute and 25 seconds later they were all hoping against hope their horse, almost going up and down on the spot, would hang on.

And .34 of a second later it did.

Winning by a lip — which only a photo would sort out.

Once the winning number was announced, trainer and jockey hoped the punters had had as much faith in the six-year-old gelding to win its third race in its 17-start career.

Tahlia Hope got the ride to use her apprentice claim to let the horse run with just 53.5kg on its back.

‘‘I thought I had lost when we hit the line,’’ Tahlia said.

‘‘When you have a Patrick Payne horse bearing down on you then you know you are in trouble,’’ she said of the favourite Lord Smedley’s withering run to the line.

‘‘It was a small field, with no speed, and when we settled after the start the favourite had been caught wide and I had one between me and the fence.

‘‘We thought he would go well, dad (Shannon) and Pa (that’s Lee, another Hope and co-trainer), had kept him fresh this prep.

‘‘I’m still trying to get over the fact he won because when it was so slow at the start the horse began pulling.

‘‘But he’s a bit of a one-pacer so there’s no slowing down and speeding him up, you’ve got to keep building his momentum.’’

With about 800m to run O’Lonhro Bay had surged to the lead but by the 200m Tahlia had gone for the whip as Lord Smedley just kept coming after covering more of the track than the other five runners.

Tahlia might not have been sure who won but her father was pretty confident even before the race began that they had made the right decision in changing running tactics.

He said they had even flagged the change, advising stewards their horse would be attempting to run the race from a forward position — the opposite of its usual style.

‘‘This guy runs a strong 1400m, and has been a regular starter every three weeks during his preparation,’’ Shannon said.

‘‘But he was coming into this start off a six-day backup so that made the win even better.

‘‘And after the race his recovery was super so there are no plans to put him out in the paddock for a while.

‘‘We’ll wait and see what this does to his rating, he’ll probably get a three or four point penalty so we might look at a 78 at Caulfield at the end of the month and give Tahlia the ride to use her 3kg city claim.’’

Shannon conceded his horse was no star but said he had become the family pet since joining the stable in October 2016.

‘‘He’s as honest as the day is long and he hadn’t done anything when we got him but he won first up for us and has banked $50000 since then so he’s going okay,’’ he added.

As happy as they all were the Hopes agreed they were glad their 1400m horse won a 1406m race — and that it wasn’t even 1cm longer or their hope might have been in vain.

The excitement continued off the track with State Member for Euroa Steph Ryan being one of the judges for fashion in the fields.

The competitive field was a popular event and had many contestants compete for the prizes.

Congratulation to the female winner Jessie Beazley and male winner Andrew Corker for taking out the awards for best dressed.

The Euroa Cup was a huge success at Benalla racing Club on Sunday having over 1000 people in attendance of all ages.

Locally trained horses If You Will and Magic Monarch both had wins on the day and Wild Action Zoo entertainer Chris Humfreys was a huge hit with the kids.

Benalla Racing Club manger Cameron Symes was thrilled with how the Euroa Cup was received.

‘‘It was a really great turnout and changing the date to March was a huge success. Chris Humfrey made it a great day for the kids and the animals were a huge hit,’’ he said.

‘‘It was a great atmosphere and you could see it was enjoyed by everyone who attended. I would like to thank the Euroa community for supporting this outstanding event.’’

The move to March gave locals and visitors the opportunity to enjoy the races in the quiet season, bringing together keen race-goers and families.

The next meet at the Benalla Racing Club will be on Thursday, April 5, from 12.30pm.