A PICTURESQUE sunset was the stunning backdrop to the Parkes Harness Racing Club's annual Trundle meeting on Sunday night, with punters treated to the Trundle Services and Citizens Cup and five memorial races honouring prominent Trundle and harness racing identities.
The first event on the card was the Henry McDermott Memorial, who was a household name in harness racing in the Western Districts and was based at his Pine Park property, between Parkes and Trundle.
He trained for his father Frank, locals such as Ron Rich and Cyrus Peters, Jack Shanks (all of Dubbo), Bill and Jenny Freeman (Parkes), Ron Musgrave and Allan Green (Forbes) and others too numerous to mention.
Some of the better horses he trained included Gosh, Cyron, Thoron, Stormy City, Social Sam, Best Command, Quambys Pride, Merlyn Adios, Shy Skipper and Shyface Skipper just to name a few.
Having travelled up from Bendigo, John McDermott, along with his brother Graham and mother Shirley, were there to present the rug to winning driver Justin Reynolds, who piloted Blackberry Rose ($4) home in a tight finish.
"Dad was the leading trainer/driver here for a few years, and this memorial race has been going on 14 or 15 years now and we love getting up here to remember Dad and his legacy," said John.
"From when I was a kid growing up here, nothing has changed although these days instead of the trainers heading straight to the Star Hotel, now all the horse floats are parked outside McDonalds!"
The feature race for the evening was the Trundle Services and Citizens Cup, with Grenfell trainer/driver Mark Hewitt causing an upset in the gig for Bobby Street ($21) - and the upsets didn't end there with Reynolds nabbing second aboard Gentle Giants ($51).
The exacta paid a delicious $312 for any punters brave enough to bypass the clear favourite Bid For Stardom ($1.75), who finished well off the pace in eighth place.
Hewitt said after the race that the tempo suited Bobby Street perfectly.
"They did go out very hard early and that really helped us get a good trail into the race," he said.
"He's an honest old fella and he's been a wonderful horse to Sue (partner) and I."
The six-year-old gelding sat last for much of the race and was even slightly inconvenienced when the second favourite Alta Down galloped ahead of him.
Hewitt made his move from five-deep on the back straight and it was anyone's race on the turn but it was Bobby Street who had the most gas in the tank, with the fast finishing Gentle Giant just 1.8m back through the middle.
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The Taylor Family Memorial saw a fitting result with a Parkes Shire-trained trifecta featuring Good Cop ($1.60), Be Good Benny ($7) and Caribbean Pat ($12).
Five-year-old gelding Good Cop, who has been racing very consistently of late, was smashed in the betting and duly delivered, after opening at $3 and starting at $1.60.
Trained at Alectown by Stan Townsend and driven by his son Nathan, Good Cop went straight to the front from the low draw and the gelding never looked like losing.
The Art Major x Secret Jewel gelding comfortably held off his more inexperienced stablemate Be Good Benny to win by 5.30m, with Parkes driver Stephen Dowton in the gig of the latter.
Nathan Townsend was pleased Good Cop was able to finally capitalise on some consistent form with a fourth win in 46 career starts.
"He was due a win and is always there or thereabouts, so he is a great horse to have in the stable," said Townsend.
The gelding is rarely out of the placings, and the Townsend stable will be hoping this win has kicked the gelding into another gear.
Talented young driver Blake Micallef booted home Carramar Times Up ($8.50) to victory in the Jenny Jones Memorial, a just reward after a busy week that saw him drive in Bathurst on Wednesday, Young on Thursday, Albury on Friday and Parkes on Sunday.
Trained at Bathurst by Nathan Turnbull, Carramar Times Up didn't start well and found himself second last but moved up three wide with cover to mow down Beautiful Vengeance ($19), who had attempted to pull clear on the back straight.
It was a superb drive by Micallef, who timed his run perfectly over a 31.1 fourth quarter to win by 1.8m in a sluggish 2:01.0, and that worked perfectly for Carramar Times Up and Micallef.
"It was a bit of a class drop for him, but we got a perfect track into the race," he said.
"You just gotta do the miles as a young driver to get your name out there and I'm very grateful for Nathan Turnbull giving me a chance on some of these runners."
Harness racing heads to Dubbo next Saturday for a night meeting while Parkes will next see action on Saturday, April 10, for another night meeting, with both featuring heats for the Parkes/Dubbo Series.