Western Victoria: Big bonus blows Merv away
By Tim Auld, December 2, 2019 - 4:45 PM

Christmas came early for popular Warrnambool trainer Merv McKenzie when his sprinter A Good Yarn won the $35,000 Shojun Charge at Beersheba Sprint at his home track last Sunday.
A Good Yarn defeated Strategic Force and Sagarra in the benchmark 70 1000-metre scamper, earning McKenzie a $25,000 small trainers’ bonus courtesy of philanthropist and Jericho Cup founder Bill Gibbins.
The bonus is for the Jericho Cup day winning trainer with the fewest horses in their stable. 
Gibbins, who came up with the Jericho Cup idea and the financial support to make it a goer, said he was delighted to hand over the $25,000 to McKenzie.
“I love looking after the battlers,” Gibbins said. “It’s a great result for Merv and the concept has been well received by the smaller trainers.”
For his part, McKenzie was over the moon.
“It’s an early Christmas present,” he said. “The whole thing has blown me away. 
“It’s just wonderful to see the smaller trainers are thought about. The win is one for the battlers — so many times everything is focused on the big trainers. 
“I had a good chat with Bill after the race and he’s just a down-to-earth good bloke. 
“The $25,000 is a massive result for my family.
“And I’ll make sure my stable staff, including Gina McDonald and Mark Warren, get something for the work they put in.”
A Good Yarn ($11) had been unlucky at his three runs prior to Sunday’s win according to the veteran trainer.
“There were excuses for his past three,” he said. 
“He’s a difficult horse to place because of his consistency. We’ll just try to find another suitable race for him in a few weeks. He’s not a bad horse when everything goes right.”
From his 15 starts A Good Yarn has won five races and collected $94,250.
Yes, says minister
Sunday’s Jericho Cup meeting ticked a lot of boxes according to Victorian Racing Minister Martin Pakula.
The minister, who was trackside, said the foundations were in place to make the meeting a big event on the Warrnambool calendar.
“It was an amazing experience,” Pakula said. “The atmosphere was incredible and despite the wintry weather the meeting was a big success, not only for the Warrnambool Racing Club but also for racing in general.”
Warrnambool Racing Club CEO Tom O’Connor was happy with the crowd of just over 3500, down from 4200 in the meeting’s first year.
“It was a great crowd considering the weather,” O’Connor said. 
“We’d been watching the forecast closely and it never looked good but we’re happy with the result. 
“I’m confident with fine weather and the Matilda Room upgrade finished we’ll have a massive crowd next year.”
Willo back with a winner
Veteran jockey Luke Williams has his fingers crossed 2020 will be a better year. 
Williams, 45, made a return to race riding with a win on Silence the Stars ($15) in a 2000-metre benchmark 64 at the Jericho Cup meeting.
“I tore the ligaments in my left shoulder in a trial back in October,” the Warrnambool jockey said. “It’s been a slow process to get the shoulder right but I’m back on track now and hoping to boot home a few more winners.”
Williams, who has a dual jockey-trainer licence, had the pinkie finger on his left hand amputated in June.
“I’d made a good recovery from my finger injury and then I was sidelined with the shoulder,” he said. 
“I’ve got seven in work at my on-course stables and things are going along well. I should have a couple of runners within the next few weeks.”
Silence the Stars is trained at Stawell by Deanne Taylor.
’Cru earns cup berth
Ballarat galloper Californiagrandcru earned a start in next year’s Jericho Cup by winning the repechage over 4065 metres at Warrnambool on Sunday for the husband-and-wife jockey/trainer combination of Lee Horner and Amy McDonald.
Horner, who has had a year to forget after being concussed twice in race falls, said Californiagrandcru was a work in progress.
“It’s just great to be back out there riding in races,” the popular jumps jockey said. 
“Amy does a big job with the training and I think Californiagrandcru may make the grade as a jumper. 
“We’re heading over to Bali at the end of the week for a short break but on January 1 we should have a dozen jumpers in work preparing for the 2020 season.”
Jericho Cup founder Bill Gibbins is among a large group of owners in Californiagrandcru.


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