Racegoers were left stunned as local champion and heavily backed hot favourite Ten Taubada’s led everyone bar on the post in the premier event on the local calendar, the rich $15,000 Bundaberg Gold Cup, being pipped in the last bound by rank-outsider Elusive Element at Thabeban Park on Saturday.
Elusive Element ($18) came from last of eight in the 1380m event to circle the field and charge down the extreme outside of the track to sprout wings over the last 100m and win by a half-length from the big grey which was sent out the $1.60 favourite.
For the eight-year-old Elusive Element, which is now owned and trained in Wondai by the quietly spoken Kym Afford and was ridden by 27-year-old battling apprentice Shannyn Stephan, it was just his fourth win in a career which has spanned 77 races so far.
Elusive Element made his track debut when fifth in last year’s Bundaberg Cup, before winning a 1600m event at the next meeting on the track on September 7.
But Kym acquired him, and the gelding had his first start for him on February 29, and he had not won for him in 12 outings until Saturday, including at the previous six meetings in the Rum City from April-July, but he finished runner-up four times in a row, including to Ten Taubada’s over the same course on April 7.
In the end, his weight advantage over Ten Taubada’s told at the end of a truly run tough race, as with the 3kg allowance for Stephan, he carried 5.5kg less than the local hero.
It was also just the 16th race victory for Shannyn at a lowly percentage of 6% after starting her career in May 2017 but missing almost a year and a half after being seriously injured in a race fall at Charleville in October 2018 and not resuming until April 4 this year.
Ten Taubada’s part-owner, hard-working Bundaberg Race Club president Dale Rethamel then had to overcome his disappointment before presenting the Cup to Shannyn, who was delegated by Kym to receive the honour.
Kym had been runner-up in Bundaberg’s second biggest race, the Lightning with Star Painter, at last year’s Cup meeting in its normal time-slot in July.
Earlier in the day, Ten Taubada’s and stable-mate veteran Al’s Briefs, which finished a brave close-up fifth in the Cup, had been named as the joint-winners of the Bundaberg Horse of the Year for 2019-20.
Ten Taubada’s second placing continued a frustrating run in the Bundaberg Cup for trainer Darryl Gardiner, who took out the Trainers’ Premiership for the seventh time but after winning the big race in 2003 with Hooded Gem, he has had to settle for second five times this decade after also being bridesmaid in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2019, and finishing third in 2017.
Darryl said that Ten Taubada’s would now go for a well earned spell but that 10-year-old Al’s Briefs would have a few more starts before being retired.
Darryl still had a good day, claiming the quinella in the opening event, a Class B, with mares Dolci and Shenzi, and taking out the Benchmark 55 with sensationally bred former Victorian Queensland debutant Wrecking Ball, whose great-grand-dam Denise’s Joy was a Golden Slipper runner-up which went on to win a Victorian Oaks among her 15 victories.
The popular horseman said he hopes the gelding can go on to better things after winning four and being placed in a further 12 of his 39 Victorian starts.
The other feature event on the program, the $10,000 Bundaberg Lightning over the 850m sprint course, was won by Rockhampton gelding Absolute Bonza, ridden by Jason Missen, edging out fellow equal-favourite Belzu, which was ridden by Shannyn.
Jason had also won last year’s Bundaberg Cup on Executed.
Absolute Bonza, which is owned and trained by the astute Kevin Miller, was having his first start on the track and first outing since June 3 when second in Emerald.
The six-year-old did not make his debut until midway through his four-year-old season on December 10, 2018, but he now boasts eight wins and nine minor placings from 24 starts after earlier victories at Gladstone (4), Dingo, Bluff and Twin Hills.
Hannah Richardson was the only jockey to claim a double on the day, aboard Scruff ‘n’ Stuff for Gympie trainer Terry Hong in the Maiden, and Wrecking Ball.
Other sports stories: Bundaberg Now weekend sports report