A Picnic For Gorrel As Asgarda Claims Country Championships

By Ray Hickson

Two weeks ago Doug Gorrel took three horses to Ardlethan picnics and didn’t fill a placing.

Imagine how the Wagga trainer feels now he’s won the $1 million Newhaven Park Country Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick with emerging mare Asgarda, who was ridden a treat by Kayla Nisbet.

Doug Gorrel with ATC chairman Peter McGauran after winning the Newhaven Park Country Championships Final. (Pic: Bradley Photos).

It was a triumph for the former journalist, turned trainer, who just over a year ago was injured in a truck accident along with jockey Molly Bourke, on the way to an Albury race meeting and lost one of his horses.

Asgarda, runner-up in the Southern Districts Championships, wasn’t supposed to win the Final. So Gorrel thought.

“She’s $21 for a reason, she’s supposed to finish midfield and she’s won the bloody thing,” Gorrel said.

“I went at the furlong post, but she just put a length-and-a-half, two lengths, on them at the 250 mark I reckon.

“My kids and my wife are here, I can’t believe it. I really can’t.”

Jockey Kayla Nisbet positioned Asgarda just off the speed and the mare responded to her hard riding to take the lead inside the 300m mark.

She sprinted quickly in the heavy ground and established a winning lead, holding off Gallant Star by 1-1/4 lengths with the fast-finishing Rapbidash another 1-3/4 lengths away in third.

“That horse has been entrusted to us by Kooringal Stud and this big fella Lance Gilbert (breeder) from Griffith and all his mates, it’s just a dream come true,’’ Gorrel said.

“She’s a lovely horse, we knew we had a really nice horse but they don’t give these races away.”

For Nisbet, the first female jockey to win the Country Championships, said the concept continues to be a success story for country racing and is rapt to have her name on honour roll.

“It’s a huge thrill. I was just saying, we say time and time again what a great initiative this has been for country participants, but to be able to win it is a huge thrill,’’ she said.

“It’s given all country participants an achievable goal to strive for and to be able to win it is very exciting.

“Today, with good speed and a good draw, I knew we were going to get a nice run in behind them and she just showed an electric turn of foot.”

The favourite Bandi’s Boy couldn’t reproduce the form that took him to a Group 3 win a week earlier with jockey Jay Ford saying the four-year-old wasn’t himself and he could only finish ninth.

“He is far better than that. I just think he’s come to the end of things. He was abnormally very quiet today and that showed in the run,” Ford said.