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Bits & Bobs

Even though 2017 is drawing to a close and offices are wrapping up, there's still plenty going on in the racing industry (it literally never stops!). There's been plenty of news and tidbits in December, and here are just a few:

*We're racing towards 2018! Image courtesy BettingPro, Boom Time winning 2017 Caulfield Cup

Family to Watch

If you've been following Victorian races lately, the name Stephanie Thornton may sound familiar. That's because Steph, an 18year old 3rd year apprentice jockey, is really hitting her straps of late. She has had some fantastic, consistent performances including a treble at Moonee Valley two weeks ago, followed by a double at Caulfield. Coming from a family with a strong equestrian background, Steph's two older brothers Damien and Boris, are also solid horsemen in their own rights, and their parents Glenn and Wendy, train from their Modewarre property. Keep your eye on these three siblings over summer - they're the real deal and will only continue to improve as their careers continue.

Fine Cotton trainer Passes Away

A few weeks ago, Hayden Haitana passed away aged 72, at his home in South Australia. Originally from New Zealand, Hayden was the horse trainer embroiled in the 1984 Fine Cotton scandal.

A horse of limited ability, Fine Cotton was entered to run in a novice handicap at Eagle Farm on 18 August 1984. His ring-in was instead a horse called Bold Personality, a 7yo gelding with much better ability than Fine Cotton. His sudden improvement coupled with significant betting plunges (from 33-1 to 7-2) as well as smudged paint on his legs, caused widespread suspicions and an eventual discovery of the fraud. Six people were banned from racing for life, including the scandal mastermind John Gillespie and Hayden who also both served jail time. Bookmakers Robbie and Bill Waterhouse were also banned for 14 years. Hayden's lifetime ban was lifted in 2013.


Canberra has once again been a town in mourning after 25 year old jockey Samara Johnson was killed in a car crash earlier this month. Her partner, trainer Garry Kirkup, was also in the car and remains in hospital recovering from surgery. The Samara Johnson Memorial Plate was run at Canberra on Sunday and her funeral held in Young yesterday.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all their family and friends.

Summer Racing

Contrary to the belief held by some one-a-year racegoers, racing doesn't suddenly stop now that Spring Carnival is over. Summer race meets provide the perfect backdrop for a relaxed picnic with family and friends. Why not pack a picnic basket, grab the crew and head to the Hanging Rock New Years Day race meeting, Caulfield for Australia Day weekend or a Friday night at Moonee Valley.

It's also yearling sale season again. The Magic Millions will kick off on the Gold Coast on Wednesday 10th January and includes the second annual Magic Millions Polo.

If you're interested in becoming involved in racing through racehorse ownership, or you're just keen to find out what all the fuss is about, then head to Aushorse's Racing Connections site. It's a new, unbiased resource of everything you need to know!

Which Way to Run?

One question that I've been asked a number of times this year is that of race direction. Why are horse races run anti-clockwise in some Australian states but clockwise in others? After a bit of research, the answer purely seems to be a mix of geography and imitation.

In the United Kingdom, there are tracks that race both ways, primarily due to the topography of the track. In Victoria, Flemington was set up as an anti-clockwise track and therefore most Victorian tracks just followed suit. According to Andrew Lemon's History of Australian Thoroughbred Racing, the first official colony Turf Register listed a small number of clockwise running tracks (Bairnsdale, Bendigo, Kerang, Sale, Talbot and Warrnambool), however all eventually changed to the uniform 'Melbourne' way.

Around the world, most countries have a combination of clockwise and anti-clockwise tracks, with the exception of Hong Kong (all clockwise) and the USA (all anti-clockwise).

Nominate your Favourite Lady of Racing

The Victorian Wakeful Club's annual Lady of Racing Award luncheon will be held on Thursday 8th March 2018 in Southbank. Tickets go on sale late January. Nominations for the 2018 Lady of Racing open 8th January, so put your thinking caps on and nominate a lady you think deserves recognition for the work they do for the racing industry.

Competition Winner

Thanks to everyone who entered the A Racetrack Somewhere competition last week. Congratulations to the lucky winner Shaun Ellis.

Thank You

Lastly, a huge thank you to all my readers and supporters this past year. I've been overwhelmed by the response to all my posts! I'm looking forward to time off over Christmas and getting away on a little holiday with Benji before school starts back. Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday season. I'll be back with more Racing Girl in the New Year!

*Fine Cotton with his trainer Hayden Haitana.

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