IT was an emotional day at Kyneton racecourse on Saturday, but in the end a joyful one for local racegoers and the connections of Great Alpine Road.
Race four on the seven-event program was named the Bobby Beare Memorial 0-58 Handicap, in honour of the popular former Kyneton football star, who died earlier this month aged 57.
To the great delight of a bigger than usual crowd, among it plenty of friends and members of the Beare family, it was the Kyneton-trained Great Alpine Road, which won the race.
The six-year-old mare is prepared by Bob Challis, whose roughly 10 horse team is stabled at Bolinda, near Romsey, but use the Kyneton track during the week.
Challis, who is well-known in Victorian racing circles as a clerk of the course, said he did not know Beare personally, but was honored to win the first edition of the race.
"Ralph (Portaro), who owns the horse, actually remembers him from playing at Essendon, so it was a bit special for him," he said.
"I didn't know Bob personally but I have heard only good things about him.
"They normally get a few people to Kyneton, even the mid-weekers the crowd is good - it's a pretty popular track.
"It was good to see plenty there yesterday."
The win boosted the daughter of dual Group 1 winner Road to Rock's career record to three wins and eight placings from 24 starts.
Challis said he would consider backing Great Alpine Road up at either Bendigo this Sunday, or three days later at Mornington.
"When she gets to her trip she's honest and stays okay ... and she can handle a bit of give in the ground," he said.
"She handles all sorts of ground, but I think she's better with a bit of give in the ground.
"I am hoping she can get out to a mile and and a half in winter."
Challis paid full credit to his partner Liz Irwin and stable hand Brittany Hills for the mare's win.
"They do all the work ... I work (as clerk of the course) three or four days a week, so Liz does the bulk of the work and does a great job," he said.
Portaro, a lifelong Essendon supporter, admitted winning a race named after a former '80s Bombers player was something a bit unique, even if he did have to miss the race due to other commitments in Melbourne.
"I wouldn't say I remembered him like I did say Paul Vander Haar," he said.
"But as a kid back then and a footy fanatic, I remember him looking like Vander Haar,with the blonde looks, and as quick as he came (to Essendon) he left and I never heard anymore of him.
"Obviously now the story gets folded out, he was a legend up in the country, but being a city boy I didn't see that.
"From the course commentator and what Liz has told me there was a hell of a lot of love for him at the track on Saturday."
Portaro was a part-owner of the sire of Great Alpine Road, Road to Rock, whose four Group or Listed race wins included Group 1 victories in the 2010 Queen Elizabeth Stakes and 2009 George Main Stakes, both at Randwick.
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