Apprentice’s star rises with home victory
Local jockeys have dominated the opening meeting of the new Great Southern season, which began at Mt Barker Turf Club on Sunday, including a memorable first home win to emerging apprentice Jessica Gray.
Gray along with senior hoops Natasha Faithfull and Mitchell Pateman won more than half of the seven-race card to kick off the 2017-18 season.
Gray scored her maiden win in the Great Southern region just four months into her career as a rider and it was an emotional result in front of a big contingent of family.
The Tenterden-raised apprentice was aboard $18 chance Nanga Parbat, which speared to the front in the Cartehil Public Accounting Handicap (1100m) and led all the way, going on to score a comfortable 1 ¼ length win over $2.40 favourite Count Kala.
The triumph continued Gray’s remarkable start to her riding career, an 11th win from 44 starts with a strike rate of 25 per cent.
“It was so good to have my family here, all my grandparents too,” Gray said.
“It felt really special to win that, especially here on my home turf.
“It was an easy ride out in front but hopefully the start of a big season here in Mt Barker and Albany.”
Gray currently sits second to runaway leader Fred Kersley in the Touchstone Rising Stars series.
Reigning Great Southern rider of the year, Pateman began the new season with a double after guiding the ultra-impressive Perazzi to a commanding victory and then saluting aboard consistent sprinter Niccatrice.
At just his third run in WA, Perazzi settled in the back half of the field and charged from eighth on the home turf to destroy his rivals and win by two lengths in The Grocery Store Handicap (1100m).
“I think he can win more races, he won pretty soft today,” trainer Bob Bell said.
“He can improve on that run and it was a 10 out of 10 ride by Mitch.
“After his first two runs and finishing second to Captivated Point, I knew he could gallop.”
The Mark Bairstow-trained Niccatrice remains unbeaten at Mt Barker after claiming the feature race on the day, the Michelle, Harry, Ivy And Ross Parsons Memorial Handicap (1300m), downing Prince Friar and Mr Pago by half a length at the finish.
Meanwhile fellow Albany jockey Natasha Faithfull scored her first winner since returning from a broken ankle, guiding Aquarian Girl home in the Plantagenet Concrete Maiden (1000m) after jumping back into the saddle last Thursday.
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