From life-changing victories to Group 1 glory. It’s been another busy year of Illawarra racing.
The Punt rates the top five biggest moments of 2017.
1. RED LETTER DAY
Few stories captured the imagination in 2017 more than Wollongong’s Peter Piras.
A suffered of leukemia who has survived kidney disease and bone-marrow transplants, Piras is a part-owner of star sprinter Redzel. He was trackside at Randwick to see his five-year-old claim the richest race on turf, the $10 million The Everest (1200m).
Piras owned Redzel, with several owners including Balgownie’s Tony Kocovski and Figtree’s Patricia Di Marco.
Meanwhile, Gwynneville part-owner Michael Tobin also had a year to remember with She Will Reign taking out the Golden Slipper.
2. CHAMPS QUEST
The Provincial Championships have become a fan favourite for Kembla trainers in recent years and 2017 was no different. Six of the 15 runners in the $400,000 final were trained at Kembla, with Michelle Ritchie’s Better Not Blue finishing the best of them in second spot.
3. FLYING FILLY
Dawn Wall has already been retired, but not before she added a Group 3 success to her resume.
And it came in the Illawarra Turf Club’s biggest race.
Chris Waller’s well-bred filly outlasted Lubiton to claim the 2017 edition of the Arrowfield Kembla Grange Classic (1600m).
4. RAIN ON ITC PARADE
It was meant to be one of the Illawarra Turf Club’s most prestigious days racing.
Instead, Kembla’s qualifier for the Provincial Championships ended up in Goulburn. A torrential rain pour on the eve of the race day saw the rail on the Mullet Creek side of the track almost completely submerged.
Racing NSW were left with no option but to move the meeting to Goulburn. A disaster for the club.
5. SPEED TO BURN
He was expected to win the region’s only Group 1 and Aqua Cheetah didn’t disappoint in the Group 1 Dapto Megastar.
Seona Thompson’s sprinter edged out Asa Barbosa by a neck, with Barking Bad a head away in third in a thrilling edition of the Megastar.
Falcon’s Fury proved too good, taking out the neighbouring Group 3 Bulli Gold Cup in February.