FOR new Charlton trainer Ashleigh Markham and his young family, their early-year move from Western Australia to Victoria has been perfect in most ways, with one possible exception.
Before last Friday, the 37-year-old trainer-driver had yet to open his Victorian win account.
That changed at Lord's Raceway on Friday night when the three-year-old gelding Codename Marcus broke through for a maiden win and Markham's first as a Charlton-based trainer.
An accomplished victory was marked by equal measures of relief and joy.
Markham, and indeed Codename Marcus, weren't so much knocking on the door of a win, but rather busting it down.
The son of Pet Rock went into the race with four Victorian starts under his belt for a first-up fourth and a third before back-to-back seconds at Charlton and Melton.
It continued a positive trend for the horse, who has not finished further back than fourth in nine career starts for a win, two seconds and two thirds.
Markham himself has been every bit as consistent in his short time at Charlton, albeit more than a touch luckless in the lead-up to Codename Marcus' breakthrough.
READ MORE: Ash hoping to make his mark from Charlton
His 22 starters before last Friday - starting from March 3 - had produced a handy, but at times frustrating four seconds, three thirds and six fourths.
Markham was justified in thinking it was only going to be a matter of time before the first Victorian win arrived.
"He'd been knocking on the door, but you do start to think whether it's coming or not sometimes, but we got there in the end," he said.
"It was an interesting night, it started pouring rain straight after the race and I got wet, so that wasn't part of the plan.
"But it was well worth it to finally crack the first win."
Markham said Codename Marcus had demonstrated plenty of ability since his arrival at his former WA stable as a late two-year-old in the latter part of 2021.
"He's always been top four in races and has done a pretty good job," he said.
"He's still a little bit immature and a little bit green, so there's plenty of upside in him. There's a long way left in the tunnel for him.
"When we started talking about coming over here, he was one of the horses that were the main attraction as he's a Vicbred.
"I had a two-year-old (out of You Light My Fire) trialling at Bendigo on Monday night; they were the two that really helped us decide to come across.
"Now that Marcus has put one on the board, I think it's been a good move for us in the end."
Racing every bit as consistently as Codename Marcus and with similar strings of placings to their names, Markham is encouraged by the recent efforts of his stable's two experienced campaigners Budd Sidewinder and Sammys Ideal.
The pair finished fifth and third respectively at Melton last Saturday night and have generally been around the mark throughout their short time in Victoria without securing the breakthrough.
"They just keep finding a couple that are a little bit better, but I'm sure they will find their race eventually," Markham said.
"You need to keep them going around and try to get the right race.
"They are doing a good enough job to suggest they are going to win in town, which is probably a bit beyond the expectations that we originally had for them."
Racing aside, Markham said he could not fault the move to Charlton and the welcome extended to him and wife Tamara and their children Jay, 15, Chaise, 13, Nate, 7 and Bonnie, 3.
"It's been great. There's been plenty of opportunities, we have plenty (of horses) in work and the kids have settled in great. They love the school," he said.
"Tamara is setting in well and has found a couple of friends and people to mix with, so everything is ticking along really good.
"I couldn't have imagined it being as good as it has been so far - we've been really lucky.
"The people up here in Charlton really want you to succeed and want you around - everything is positive.
"There's nothing dragging you down, or upsetting you too much, it's just a really positive environment.
"For life in general, that's a really hard thing to find, but it's brilliant."
Echoing the strong camaraderie that exists among the Charlton harness racing fraternity, Markham said he was rapt with the success being enjoyed by his fellow trainers, with Shane Sanderson, John Tormey and Mark Boyle all enjoying a win or multiples in the last couple of weeks.
He hopes to be able to add to the winning tally emanating from the Charlton Training Centre, with Budd Sidewinder and Sammys Ideal both headed back to Melton this Saturday night.
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