EVER-smiling and amiable, Charlton's Denbeigh Wade had 100 extra reasons to smile following the opening race at Terang last Saturday night.
The 29-year-old harness racing driver and co-trainer brought up her 100th career win in the sulky by steering the Michael Gadsden stable newcomer Mymatethomo to a thrilling victory in the opening race of the program on Terang Cup night
It was a confidence-building win for both horse and the young training team of Gadsden and Wade, especially the driver.
Wade, by her own admission, had been lurking in the nervous mid to late 90s for a little longer than she would have liked.
"Michael put a Twitter post up about it a while back ," she said.
"I didn't realise I was getting close and my immediate thought was 'good on you, now I am never going to get this now'.
"But thankfully we got there."
It's been a long road to 100 winners and indeed to Charlton for the Mildura-born and raised Wade.
She first obtained her licence in the 2010-11 season and had her first drives for Mildura trainer Frank Cavallaro just before leaving high school.
After graduating, Wade moved south to study an advanced diploma in equine business management at Glenormiston College for two years.
But her career in the sulky suffered a setback when she broke her collarbone before completing her course.
"I did a bit of a number on it," said Wade, who estimated it took about 18 months for the injury to fully heal.
Her fledgling career started to gain serious traction when she went to work with the Mannings at Great Western.
While largely restricted to driving their 'second and third-stringers', Wade still regards her stint as 'an opportunity of a lifetime'.
Together with Gadsden, the couple spent more than five years in total in the region, including a long spell at Ararat, before relocating to the Charlton training centre in mid-2020.
With loose ends to be tied up, Wade initially stayed behind and continued to work for Kerryn Manning, before joining her partner about six months later.
The opportunity to branch out on their own in a small, but growing and certainly vibrant and thriving harness racing community, has yielded its share of success and positives on all fronts.
Not all of them are racing-related, according to Wade.
"I definitely like the weather change, I don't do the cold weather well," she laughed.
"It sometimes baffles me how I lasted so long in Ararat.
"We (people) always complain about something, but I'd rather complain about it being too hot than too cold."
Responsible for a good degree of their success as a training combination, but no longer a part of their stable was Maorishadow.
The capable and at times brilliant trotting mare provided Wade with the standout moment of her driving career with their victory together in the Group 2 Vicbred Platinum Trotting Mares Sprint Championship at Tabcorp Park Melton in January of 2020.
Their victory in the Group 3 Tontine Trotting Championship at Horsham last year counts as Wade's second-biggest win.
Owned by the couple's good friend Stephen Blacker, the now seven-year-old succumbed to a likely long-lingering tendon injury and was only recently retired.
"That was a sad day, but she's all okay. She'll go to stud, but it will be sad not seeing her around the stables every day," Wade said.
"She was probably only a couple of weeks off having a trial and we were going to aim her at the Tontine again as she was back down to that class.
"We'd just been waiting for her to calm down a bit and relax and this time back in she had been both of those and was working beautifully.
"We thought this might be the time she takes that next step, but unfortunately it was not meant to be."
With about dozen horses currently in work and a few unraced youngsters on the books, Wade and Gadsden hope the new kid on the block Mymatethomo can help fill some of the breach left by Maorishadow.
Although it took them some time to get him up and going due to an existing keratoma condition (tumours in the hoof), the eight-year-old Courage Under Fire gelding repaid their faith with a win at only his second start for the stable.
His first was an eighth, at long odds, in the Wedderburn Pacing Cup on January 30.
While he has already won a place in Wade's heart as the horse who delivered her long-overdue 100th win, she is confident the former South Australian pacer can become a solid bread and butter horse for the stable.
"He certainly had a bit of a motor before we got him, he'd won 14 from not all that many starts (58)," she said.
"Although it was mostly South Australian form, at the same time he was running a lot of seconds and thirds to some good horses at Mildura and running them all in good time.
"It doesn't matter how strong your opposition is, if you are still carving out the sectionals, it's enough to show you still have some class.
"The keratoma in his feet has taken quite a while to get on top of. Whenever he was nearly right he would pull up a bit sore.
"He's a funny little bugger, he won't go a yard at home. He doesn't like to be told to go.
"For a long time there we were working him by himself, as even if you put him with another horse he wouldn't go.
"His first run we were never planning on running him too big. We thought fitness-wise he'd be pretty good, it was just how he was going to return to this level.
"The thing he really needs right now is that confidence to finish off a race with his feet not hurting and a reminder that he is pretty good.
"We were relatively confident without being cocky (on Saturday) as we knew how well he'd finished off his last start and in his work he'd just jumped out of the ground since then.
"We thought we had him in a pretty good frame of mind.
"We just needed a little ounce of luck and fortunately all the shots went our way.
While navigating the nineties might have been a bit of a hard grind for Wade, the end came swiftly and painlessly.
Her win aboard Mymatethomo was her and Gadsden's second in three days following the maiden success of the John Kennedy (Pyramid Hill) owned Balmy Bob at Swan Hill on Thursday.
Read more: Balmy Bob gets overdue slice of fortune
Wade considered it apt that her 100th win was notched at Terang.
The Western Districts track was the venue of her first-ever double in the sulky in the early 2010s and also her first country cup win on Ainthatrightmacca in 2017 Terang Trotters Cup.
While they acknowledge it's a huge step-up in grade, Gadsden and Wade will consider a Charlton Cup tilt with Mymatethomo.
The cup meeting will be run on Sunday, March 20.
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