Gippsland: 'Special' mare springs Valley surprise
By Damien Donohue, October 11, 2017 - 8:21 AM

Cranbourne-based Rachael Cunningham trained the 13th and most significant winner of her fledgling career when stable star Rock Away scored at Moonee Valley last Friday night in the $35,000 1Print Handicap (1600m).
Rock Away ($101), a six-year-old daughter of Elvstroem and emerging broodmare Rhythm and Light, finished strongly to get the money in a competitive finish under apprentice Brandon Stockdale, who saved plenty of ground navigating a path close to the fence. 
Cunningham, who took out a trainer’s licence in 2013, wasn’t on course to witness her maiden metropolitan victory. Husband Peter deputised for his wife, who is due to give birth to the couple’s second child in January.
He explained post-race: “She (Rock Away) had a jumpout a couple of weeks ago and blew pretty hard, so we thought she’d need the run tonight. I told the owners not to back her, but I think they all did, so that’s lucky. Brandon rode her beautifully tonight.”
Rock Away was purchased from Tasmanian interests while still a maiden. The Cunninghams had won first up with the mare’s brother Excellent Rhythm, who was also a $101 chance when victorious that evening.
Rachael Cunningham says Rock Away “has plenty of ability but is a bit special in the head and has been a challenge since day one. 
“Both horses (Rock Away and Excellent Rhythm) have plenty of ability but are difficult.”
Rock Away’s next start is likely to be back at Moonee Valley, either over 2000 metres on Cox Plate eve or in the Group 3 Tesio Stakes (1600m) on Cox Plate day.
The Cunninghams usually have five or six in work at their Cranbourne Training Centre base, as well as around 15 pre-trainers for fellow Cranbourne trainer Robbie Griffiths. 
Rachael and Peter (who rides trackwork) have set up a thoroughbred agistment property at Koo Wee Rup, with a long-term goal to eventually move their racehorses there.
Gauteng Girl and Kastor both ran nice placings for the stable at Mornington on Tuesday. They look like coming winners.
Buttlers enjoying Reward
Promising Greg Eurell-trained four-year-old Seven Year Reward kept his unbeaten record intact at Bairnsdale on Sunday, combining with Nikita Beriman to take out the Bairnsdale Horse Centre BM64 Handicap (1000m).
Seven Year Reward, one of three winners for Beriman on the day, went to the barrier at Winx odds ($1.20), but supporters had some anxious moments. 
Seven Year Reward was parked three wide outside the speed and showing signs of inexperience on the home turn and in the straight. 
Beriman didn’t panic and the gelding held on to beat fellow Cranbourne-trained gallopers Ansinna and The Centaurian.
Beriman, who rides work for the stable at the Cranbourne Training Centre, was upbeat after the narrow victory, which followed a seven-length debut romp on the Geelong synthetic.
“Seven Year Reward is certainly a better horse than what was seen (at Bairnsdale). 
“Going from the synthetic (Geelong) to a deteriorating track was a test. He didn’t have the best of luck in running, but still held on. He’s a nice horse for the future.”
Eurell and the Buttlers of Rangal Park Stud at Euroa, who bred and part-own Seven Year Reward, have enjoyed a successful partnership over many years. 
Horses the calibre of Sister Norma (six wins, four in town), Nassi (four wins), Braided General (four wins, two in town) and French Tang (three wins) have been success stories for the combination in the past.
Hong Kong galloper Romantic Cash (Danerich-Homeland Sheila), a winner of four of his 10 starts, was educated by Eurell for Rangal Park Stud, then sold after trialling impressively at Cranbourne.
This Friday night Eurell’s focus will be on his home track for the Pinker Pinker Plate, named after his 2011 Cox Plate winner.
Progressive five-year-old mare Falika, an impressive winner of the Briseis BM78 Mares Handicap (1800m) at Flemington recently, will be Eurell’s first runner in the Pinker Pinker (2025m).


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