HomeSportAlisha Donald wins first four races at Thabeban Park

Alisha Donald wins first four races at Thabeban Park

Craiglea Bandit (right) gets up to beat Qwick in the Higgins Coatings QTIS Maiden Plate at the Catholic Schools Race Day at Thabeban Park on Saturday to give apprentice Alisha Donald her fourth straight victory from the first four events on the program.

Rockhampton apprentice Alisha Donald became the first jockey since the late but great Desiree Gill on Melbourne Cup Day 2013 to ride four winners at a Bundaberg meeting, taking out the first four events at the gala annual Bundaberg Catholic Schools Race Day at Thabeban Park on Saturday.

Alisha, who only started her career in June last year, had ridden at three of the previous four Bundaberg meetings without landing a winner, having to settle for two seconds at both the 29th January and 4th September Days, but not even managing a place on 11th December.

She went into Saturday’s program with five favourites among her full book of seven rides, in the first five events, and she was successful on the first four, Done It Again (Smiling Wide Orthodontics Benchmark 65 Handicap), I Am Fearless (Bob Gallagher Memorial Class B), Auvergne (Dental Excellence Bundaberg benchmark 55), and Craiglea Bandit (Higgins Coatings QTIS Maiden Plate), but she then had to settle for second aboard Dukatti, which was beaten by his stablemate Ourlastpenny in the Rum City Foods Benchmark 45.

Alisha then mounted up on outsider My Certain ($17) in the Charlton Lawyers Open Handicap, and she made a bold bid to lead throughout, but he wound up third behind stablemate Walshie, which completed a race-to-race double for popular Eidsvold owner/trainer Bob Murray, and Bundaberg champion and favourite Wrecking Ball.

In the final event, the Waves Sports Club Class B, Alisha rode another outsider London Fame for champion Gympie trainer Barry Gill, the widower of Desiree, who tragically died five days after her 2013 Cup Day quartet of winners, after suffering horrific injuries in a race fall at Caloundra a day earlier.

On Saturday, Alisha donned the distinctive Black with White Spots colours which Desiree wore to many wins in her distinguished career, but London Fame could manage only fourth behind Terre Di Bacchio, ironically a son of 2013 Melbourne Cup winner Fiorente.

Both of Gympie born and bred Alisha’s parents, Darren and Kathy, were former highly successful jockeys, but she was told from a young age she would “never ride because it was too dangerous”.

But the now 22-year-old moved to Rockhampton to start university when she was 18, and she soon started riding trackwork.

However, it was not until nine months ago that she made her race debut after getting apprenticed to top Rockhampton trainer Tim Cook.

The stylish horsewoman rode her first winner at Bowen at her seventh ride, and she has built up an impressive record, notching 30 wins, 32 seconds and 43 thirds from 259 rides so far, and she looks destined to go on to bigger and better things.

Meanwhile, Done It Again and Auvergne are both five-year-old chestnuts by Group 1 winning Irish sire New Approach, a son of the immortal Galileo, are trained in Emerald by Ross Meek, and were having their first starts in the Rum City.

The sensationally bred I Am Fearless, by super sire I Am Invincible out of a Snitzel mare, was sacked by his original Melbourne champion co-trainers Richard and Michael Freeman after failing on debut at Goulburn in December 2020, before also failing in Rockhampton in April 2021.

He then had another change of trainer to Glenn Richardson in Nanango and won a Warwick 800m Maiden at his first start for him on 7th February, before making it back-to-back victories on Saturday.

Three-year-old Craiglea Bandit had been runner-up in 7 of his first 27 starts at Townsville, Roma (twice), Rockhampton (twice), Bundaberg, and Dalby, so the breakthrough was long overdue for his Sunshine Coast trainer Krystle Johnston and his syndicate of owners headed by his breeder and famed Craiglea Stud Kenilworth patriarch and icon Stan Johnston.

Six-year-old mare Ourlastpenny is also a son of a Galileo sire, the little known, War Stories, and is out of a mare by Victorian Derby winner Stylish Century, and was ridden by 2020-21 Bundaberg Jockeys Premiership winning apprentice Rebecca Wilson.

But her win was unexpected as her recent form had been poor, and she had managed just four wins – a Bundaberg Maiden in December 2019, and at Thangool (17/4/21), Eidsvold (2/10/21), and Gladstone (18/12/21), and 10 minor placings in 40 starts – since being purchased by Bob in September 2019.

alisha donald winners
Walshie, ridden by Gemma Steele, wins from Wrecking Ball (Kelly Gates) in the Charlton Lawyers Open Handicap, the premier event on Saturday’s Catholic Schools Race Day

Eight-year-old Walshie’s was well ridden by Gemma Steele and his 10th career triumph took his stake earnings past the $100,000 barrier, but it was also out of the blue as he had managed just a third from his first four Bundaberg appearances, and it was only his seventh win since being acquired from New South Wales by the Murray family in October 2018, the others being at Eidsvold, Gayndah, Thangool (twice), Nanango, and Taroom on New Years Day this year.

Before his double, Bob had been runner-up with Qwick, also ridden by Gemma, behind Craiglea Bandit in the previous race.

Terre Di Baccio ($6), from the Texas stables of Rod Hilton, outgunned favoured pair Kilkenny Dazzler ($2.60), trained by Bundaberg’s Mary Hassam, and Yes No Maybe So ($2.15) over the tough 1380m course, providing Adam Spinks, the only male jockey who rode at the meeting, with a share of the spoils.

Terre Di Baccio, which bears the name of a Country Bed and Breakfast in Tuscany, Italy, also started his career in New South Wales, managing just a second and a third from 20 starts, before arriving in Rod’s stables midway through last year, and he had notched a Gympie maiden win in July last year and three minor placings in his first eight outings for him, before his first venture to the Rum City.

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