Out in the dusty central west of NSW, at the Parkes races to be exact on Sunday, many people rejoiced, a few broke into tears and everyone, either a winner or loser, felt some sort of divine justice had been metered out.
The race meeting featured two events: the Parkes Gold Cup over 1600m worth $32,000, and a $22,000 Maiden which the club named the Vale George Wright Mdn Plate and it was over 1400m.
The Cup was won by the horse who won it last year as well named Class Clown. He was up from Wagga and actually won by 3 lengths with Matty Cahill in the saddle.
But it was the other race that captivated everyone.
George Wright was a very popular racehorse trainer whose home base was at Parkes. He had 24 horses in work when at the age of 54 in late March this year, he suddenly, unexpectedly and sadly passed away.
Those horses were dispersed among a few people, one of whom was George Wright Jnr. The son was the regular track work rider for his dad and he had just started having plans of his own to train a horse or two. So he did. He got licensed in 2017, got himself a horse and tinkered around with it.
Today, unexpectedly and not in the manner he ever wanted he has 17, courtesy of family ties and the bulk of his father’s horses being transferred to him.
So to Parkes yesterday, George Wright Jnr, wanting to win the race, entered two horses in the maiden named in honour of his father. They were On a Promise and Sheboygan.
With 200m left to go, Sheboygan, a $26 chance and with Quayde Krogh on top riding for dear life, led and led clearly. The 5YO was running as if fuelled by the universe itself.
A few starts earlier, Sheboygan was beaten out of a place in a Picnic Maiden. He’d never gone this fast and he was at full gallop with the field of 14 behind him all off the bridle, straining everything they had, ears back and jocks hard at work.
The race caller, Col Hodges, who had been a close friend of Wrights, audibly changed his tone when he saw the impossible may well became possible, “by gee this Sheboygan is giving a great sight,” he yelled through the microphone.
But then, almost the moment he got those words out, one runner emerged from the pack. It charged at Sheboygan reeling him in with every stride, eventually destroying the hope of all that a fairy would happen, right on the line.
Everyone was stunned but it only took 10seconds for caller Hodges and the crowd on track to realise, the horse who ran down George Wright Jnr’s bolter was…….George Wright Jnr’s other runner On A Promise.
“Well we got the fairy tale ending we wanted after all,” said Hodges who was clearly, as was everyone on course, happy it all ended that way. The two racehorses, who a few weeks earlier had been in old George’s care, now had run the warmest of honours in finishing one, two in their mentor’s race!
Nick Heywood rode the winner.
At age 17, George Wright the former footy player had become a harness racing trainer/driver and stayed in the sport for 20 years before his switch to the gallopers.
And during his race horse training days old George had became a king of Picnic racing, winning the Central West Picnic Title six years in a row.
His son must have learned a few things from his dad along the way.
From his Parkes base, George Wright and son became renowned for travelling long distances to place his horses to advantage.
In a Racing NSW Magazine article written by his mate Col Hodges, Wright was quoted as saying: “I have good owners and I don’t like wasting their money by leaving their horses home in the stables when they could be earning prizemoney.
“Not all horses are champions so for those with limited ability I reckon it’s best to take them somewhere where they have a reasonable chance of being in the placings rather than back in the pack in higher prizemoney events.”
Not all blokes are champions either, but George Wright was well liked among his peers and seemingly did the right thing by the universe too.
The quinella was a lovely, fitting gesture.