Trainer Matthew Dale won his first North Ryde RSL Showcase Moruya Cup on Monday as Billy Owen rode Animalia to victory in the $50,000 race.
The 1425-metre race was a tight affair, with a group of four horses distancing themselves from the pack down the final straight.
Natalie Jarvis’ Belle Tournure, Luke Pepper’s Appoint Percy, and John Thompson’s Cuba all finished within a half-length of the eventual winner, with fifth-placed Hesperos a further three lengths back.
“You don’t get a better finish than that,” Moruya Jockey Club Manager Brian Cowden said. “They were four of the best horses in that field, and you could see them all straining to try and win the race.”
The race finished in a time of 1:25.51, just over a second outside the track record set by Kerrysdale in 2001.
The cup win was Dale’s second win of the day, after his horse Exceed the Night took out the Women in Racing Canberra Class 1 Showcase Handicap, the first race on the card.
Other winners included Natalie Jarvis’ Malachi Crunch in the AMH Auto Group Benchmark 58 Showcase Handicap, Joseph Ible’s Francisco Pizaro in the Moruya Golf Club Country Maiden Showcase Handicap, and Chris Heywood’s Fermanagh Lad in the Mitre 10 Moruya and Ulladulla Showcase Moruya Town Plate.
The viewing area was packed with people for the race-meet, the first of the Moruya Jockey Club’s two major January events.
“It was pretty much the crowd we expected, probably just over the 2000 mark,” Mr Cowden said. “Everyone was really well behaved, we had no health issues or race hold ups, and I believe everyone went home very happy.”
The first meet in January has traditionally been the Narooma Cup, but the club made the decision to change the dates late last year.
“We’ve been getting a lot of support from Moruya businesses, so we decided to reward that with our showcase meeting,” Mr Cowden said. “Our major sponsor in Narooma is also extremely busy in the first week of January, so they believed the date two weeks later would be more beneficial to them.”
This year’s Moruya Cup marked the first time the Moruya Jockey Club offered a $50,000 pot for a race, with the previous record being $40,000.
“We’ve noticed a big increase in interest since both Matthew Dale and Danny Williams brought satellite stables down here, and our turnover has increased significantly,” Mr Cowden said. “It has brought a better class of horse to the track, and they also tend to bring the better jockeys to ride for them on racedays.
“Crowds have generally been up as well, because people love to watch good-quality racing.”
The club will now prepare for the Narooma Cup, which will run on Monday, January 21.
“The next race meeting is in less than two weeks now, so we don’t get any down time at all,” Mr Cowden said. “We’ll spend two or three days cleaning up and doing paperwork, and then it’s straight into preparing for the Narooma Cup.”