MARONG Cup day will always hold fond memories for hobby trainer Debbie Wills.
It was the day she scored her first ever double as trainer in 2018 with a pair of special horses.
The Bagshot hobby trainer hopes to get a chance to do the same tomorrow, when she saddles up at least one runner – and potentially two – at Bendigo racecourse.
Included will be the mare, who delivered Wills one half of her breakthrough double, in Ahsha.
But for the Bagshot trainer, this year’s Cup meeting will be a bittersweet affair as she will be without the second of her two winning gallopers from last year, Special Feeling.
The former David Hayes-trained gelding, who won three races for Wills, had to be retired from racing after suffering a second bleeding attack during a race at Ballarat last March.
Just weeks earlier, Special Feeling turned heads by winning his second consecutive 1300m race at Bendigo.
The gelding continues to live out his days at Wills’ property outside of Bendigo, but the mere mention of his name still stirs plenty of emotions in his trainer and questions about what his racing future may have held.
“I will never get rid of him – he still looks beautiful,” she said.
“The horses I don’t here I have leased out as dressage horses, but Special Feeling is not a very nice horse; not many people would like him.
“He has a big attitude but I love him. He still looks a treat and you could put him into work tomorrow, but those are the breaks, there’s nothing much I can do about it.
“He will be here (at Bagshot) forever).
Wills said Ahsha, who will contest an 1100m benchmark 58 handicap, could be forgiven for a poor run last start at Burrumbeet on New Year’s Day as she simply did not handle the track.
“She cut her leg during the run and just didn’t handle the track; it didn’t suit her one bit even though she was only beaten two lengths,” she said.
“She’s training well … we’ve drawn the outside barrier, but jockey Jessie (Philpot) will jump and run.
“The horse will have a huge crack.”
Wills’ other potential runner is Bright Steel in a 1300m maiden.
The four-year-old is currently the third emergency and will be having his fourth start for his new trainer if he gains a run.
Bright Steel was formerly trained at Warrnambool by Symon Wilde.
Wills, who was the inaugural winner of Bendigo racing’s Donna Philpot Memorial Award for special achievement, said she was proud to have Donna’s daughter Jessie engaged on both horses.
“I think she will really suit Ahsha, who really like the girls and will love the (three kilogram) claim she said.
“She rode Bright Steel in a trial the other day and she went really well on her.
“She deserves her chances … she’s been everywhere this week, Stony Creek on Wednesday, Warrnambool on Thursday and Kyneton the other day, so she’s doing plenty of hard work.”
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