FEMALE trainers and drivers from the Bendigo region have dominated Friday night's 12-race meeting at Mildura's City Oval Paceway.
A stellar performance was highlighted by a stunning five driving wins to Ellen Tormey and complemented by trebles to trainers Julie Douglas and Kate Hargreaves, and a single driving win to Tayla French.
In all, Bendigo participants had a hand in nine of the 12 winners on the program, with talented young reinsmen Jayden Brewin notching a driving double aboard The Knight Star (Hargreaves) and Illawong Jovial for Longlea trainer Scott Rains, and Jordan Leedham scoring a win on the five-year-old gelding Quamby Reactor for the Hargreaves stable.
Tormey, who drove two winners for Douglas (Bernie Winkle and Elegant Jewel) and one apiece for Hargreaves (Smoke My Motor) and Mildura trainers Scott Garraway (Skippers Swan Song) and Frank Cavallaro (Come On Elvis), said her return of five winners had made the 4am arrival home after a night at the races and 7.30am rise on Saturday somewhat easier.
"I guess I thought I had a few good chances, but last week (at Mildura) I thought the same and only ended up with one winner," she said.
"It kind of just comes down to luck I guess, but everything went perfectly.
"Some quality horses help. The night before at Echuca I had an awful night - a few of them galloped - but when you are driving the Douglases horses you are always a chance, the same with Kate and Alex's (Kate Hargreaves and Alex Ashwood).
"(Scott Garraway) in the first told me he would go close. The last one (Come On Elvis) hadn't been going well, but when it puts its best foot forward, it actually has a good sprint and everything fell into place for it."
Clearly the pick of her drives going into the night, Bernie Winkle, who has made Mildura his own during a COVID-affected 2020, again did not disappoint.
The seven-year-old veteran of 199 starts for 39 wins and 46 placings, notched his 15th win of the calendar year at the City Oval Paceway from 25 starts.
Thirteen of those starts for 11 wins came during the regional racing period while under the care of Sunraysia trainer Geoff Lucas, but now back home in the Douglas stable, the son of Rock N Roll Heaven has clearly lost none of his zip or zest.
Tormey, who had driven Bernie Winkle previously, before taking the reins in his last three starts for a pair of wins and a third, has relished the opportunity to get in behind the in-form gelding.
"It's nice to drive a horse that's kind of famous up there," she said.
"Last week, everything kind of went wrong, but this week we made our own luck instead of sitting back and waiting for it to happen.
"He was just too good. It was a big effort as he was sprinting a long way from home, but he sustained it.
"He showed he doesn't just have the one string to his bow, he has a few if he has to."
An enticing $11,400 win purse lifted Bernie Winkle's season earnings to $149,465, a remarkable return for his ownership.
After a win early in the night with the four-year-old pacer Pembrook Charlie (driven by Tayla French), the treble for Strathfieldsaye trainer Douglas was completed when Tormey steered home Elegant Jewel in the race following Bernie Winkle.
The four-year-old mare's ninth career win at start number 76 put an end to a run of four minor placings from her last five runs and 23 starts in between wins for Elegant Jewel, despite rarely running a bad race.
Tormey has been in the sulky for five of those wins and believed the combination horse and driver has developed a good affinity for each other.
"For some reason, I do get along well with her, she hasn't done anything wrong on me, but she is a funny mare," she said.
"She's actually in foal and sometimes that agrees with them and she has been racing really well.
"That leader (The Defiant) can fold sometimes when he cops a bit of pressure, so I was hoping if I could do that, we had a good chance."
A second treble for the month for Hargreaves has ensured a strong end to an already great season for the young trainer.
Victories to Smoke My Motor, Quamby Reactor and The Knight Star boosted her December tally to 14 winners, putting her within two wins of notching a career-best month.
Her current career-best is 15 winners, achieved in October this year.
The Shelbourne trainer progressed her 2020-21 season tally to 112 wins for earnings of $661,890, placing her outright fourth on the state trainer's premiership standings.
Bendigo connection at Mildura - December 18
Race 1: Skippers Swan Song (D: Ellen Tormey)
Race 3: Smoke My Motor (T: Kate Hargreaves; D: Ellen Tormey)
Race 5: Pembrook Charlie (T: Julie Douglas; D: Tayla French)
Race 6: Quamby Reactor (T: Kate Hargreaves; D: Jordan Leedham)
Race 7: The Knight Star (T: Kate Hargreaves; D: Jayden Brewin)
Race 8: Bernie Winkle (T: Julie Douglas; D: Ellen Tormey)
Race 9: Elegant Jewel (T: Julie Douglas; D: Ellen Tormey)
Race 10: Come On Elvis (D: Ellen Tormey)
Race 11: Illawong Jovial (T: Scott Rains; D: Jayden Brewin)
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