It was business as usual for champion Bundaberg trainer Darryl Gardiner at the XXXX Christmas Party Race Day at Thabeban Park on Saturday, taking out another winning double, including snaring the quinella in the feature event for the second local meeting in the row with Wrecking Ball and Crisscross in the Byron Bay Brewery Open Handicap.
He was also successful with Homecall, which returned to the winners’ list in the XXXX Gold Benchmark 60 Handicap.
Despite his imposing record on the track, reigning Bundaberg Cup champion Wrecking Ball was only third favourite for the race, paying $3.20, behind stablemates Dolci ($2), which weakened over the concluding stages to place fourth, and Criss Cross ($2.80), as he had to hump a hefty 60kg to their 52kg and 53kg respectively.
But class prevailed as eight-year-old Wrecking Ball caught Crisscross close to the finish post to record his fifth win from six starts on the track and his ninth victory overall.
Wrecking Ball provided jockey Kelly Gates with the first leg of a race-to-race double, as she then teamed with top Gympie trainer Barry Gill to take out the XXXX Dry QTIS Maiden Plate with exquisitely bred three-year-old Rocket Ryan at just his fourth start, sentencing well backed Sunshine Coast trained second-favourite Craiglea Bandit to his sixth runner-up tag.
Homecall ($3.50) was ridden by Sunshine Coast apprentice Montana Philpot, in her first trip back to the Rum City since notching her first race winner then making it a winning double at the Catholic Schools Race Day in March.
On another afternoon at the Park dominated by female jockeys, Gemma Steele also booted home a winning double aboard favourite Aratula ($2.40) in the White Claw Hard Seltzer Class B and rank outsider KingoftheHarbour ($10) in a field of four in the Hahn Super Dry Benchmark 55 Handicap.
Aratula, which is trained in Toowoomba by Mark Patterson, had also got the money at the previous Bundaberg meeting on Melbourne Cup Day.
KingoftheHarbour, which had finished a distant seventh behind Aratula over 850m on track debut on Melbourne Cup Day, was much better suited over the 1600m of Saturday’s race, staving off Ourlastpenny and favourite Mr Maharaj ($1.70), which was also victorious over 1380m on Cup Day.
He is trained in Gympie by former highly successful jockey Simon Kurz.
The only male jockey to be among the winners on the program was Robert Faehr aboard Nine-year-old veteran of 84 starts but rank outsider Wild Element ($15), which is also trained in Gympie by Cherie Vick, outgunning local hope Toy Whitty and favourite Gossiaux.