2020/21 Season highlights

Horses around the country celebrated their birthday last Sunday officially marking the start of the 2021/22 thoroughbred season.

The change in season affords an opportunity to reflect on the one that has recently been completed though and there were many highlights. Tasracing form analyst Matt Reid has put together a review of the the 2020/21 season and picked out his personal highlights.

Top performance – Newhart, Thomas Lyons

Fittingly the horse I think that deserves favouritism for horse of the year delivered the standout performance when Newhart won the Thomas Lyons in Hobart.

Having not raced since securing his second Devonport Cup a month earlier, the 5YO gelding was having both his first start in weight-for-age company and his first look at the Hobart track.

Expertly ridden by Craig Newitt, Newhart demolished a field that included superstar mare Mystic Journey, who was sent out the prohibitive $1.20 favourite.

It was an outstanding training performance by Leanne Gaffney to have Newhart peaking at 1400m having had his previous start over 1880m and Newhart's place among the best in the state was only enforced when he won the Mowbray Stakes at his next outing.

Honourable mentions:

  • Hela – Strutt Stakes. Broke the track record and established herself as a potential star in the making.
  • Still A Star – Vamos Stakes. First-up off a setback that caused her to miss the Bow Mistress. Outstanding win.

Best ride – Bulent Muhcu, Newmarket Handicap

It seemed Gee Gee Secondover's cards had been marked before the 2020 Newmarket had been run. Halfway through the program it was obvious an on-speed/rails pattern had been established, a nightmare outcome for Bulent Muhcu on Gee Gee Secondover when he had drawn the widest barrier in a field of 11 and the horse generally settles back in his races.

Drifting from $13 out to $18, most punters were happy to take on Gee Gee Secondover but Muhcu delivered what was described as a "10 out of 10 ride" according to caller Colin McNiff.

Bulent settled at the rear of the field but searched for inside runs on the preferred part of the track and when a gap came in the home straight, the 5YO gelding showed his customary turn of foot to put the field away.

Honourable mentions:

  • Siggy Carr – Launceston Cup. One of very few winners to come from off the speed for the day. Big effort to lift the horse in a three-way photo.
  • Craig Newitt – Devonport Cup. Found cover from the widest barrier and timed his run to perfection which was critical given how well the second horse went on the day.

Find of the year – Erica Byrne Burke

You would have to search far and wide to find a better start to a career, not just in Tasmania, but across the country.

It's fair to say that Erica Byrne Burke's first race meeting didn't provide a sign of things to come. "EBB" was unplaced from two rides and earned a suspension for her ride aboard Magic Waler on 9 May.

Across her efforts in the 2020/21 season, Byrne Burke had 44 rides for 14 winners and a further 13 placings, including this masterpiece on Shampz Again from the last Hobart meeting.

Her winning strike rate of 31.8% is ridiculous and she's been a terrific find for the Adam Trinder stable and punters alike.

Honourable mentions:

  • Codi Jordan – Leading apprentice in her first year of riding.

Biggest blowout – The Guilty Party, Melbourne Cup Day

The traditional Melbourne Cup Day program in Hobart wasn't an easy one for punters, four of the seven winners were a double-figure price headlined by the win of The Guilty Party, who's $101 Tasracing Official Price and $205 best tote dividend was the highest for the season.

It wasn't a sign of things to come for The Guilty Party who has only managed one placing in 14 subsequent runs.

Honourable mentions:

  • White Hawk – Hobart, 24 January. SP $101, Best tote $152.90
  • Master Truffles – Devonport, 20 June. SP $61, Best tote $72.30

Feel good moment – Chloe Wells debut winner

The Wells name is a famous one in Tasmanian racing and when Chloe Wells made her riding debut on 9 May she was following the footstep of her father, uncle, and grandfather who've all forged successful careers in the industry.

Legged up for the first time on $11 each-way chance Gee Gees Cricket, Chloe Wells went straight to the front and gave nothing else a look in.

It was a fairy-tale moment for the Wells family and coming on Mother's Day would have made it all the more special.

Honourable mentions:

  • Minute Repeater – Hobart, 3 November. Delivered an upset win in the Goodwood Handicap, the last start for the then 11YO.
  • Coronation Pia – Launceston, 3 March. Georgie Catania rides her first ever winner for "best mate" Siggy Carr.

What to look for in 2021/22

Just how good is Turk Warrior?

He had a clean sweep of the 2YO features and only one of his victories was by under two lengths.

The lingering doubt on whether he is the next Tassie superstar is that the times he has been running haven't been exceptional and the ability of those he has beaten is yet to be proven.

His return as a 3YO will undoubtedly be a talking point with the 3YO Cup on 1 December his first obvious big target if connections don't head across the water.

What next for And Beyond and Hela

Two rising stars who are yet to taste defeat in their home state and in Hela's case her only blemish came in a Group 1 when sent out a $4.20 chance.

Whether Scott Brunton thinks she's a genuine stayer or a middle-distance horse may determine the targets for Hela this season. In the case of And Beyond, his recent Caulfield performance was disappointing but I think we've seen enough to know he's well above average. He would be very hard to beat in a Newmarket and still has a low enough rating to avoid carrying a big weight in that race.

Shorter gap between the state's biggest races

The 2022 Ladbrokes Hobart and Launceston Cup will be run 10 days apart, a week less than the gap between the races in 2021.

This has a flow on effect to races such as the Bow Mistress/Vamos, Strutt Stakes/Oaks and Thomas Lyons/Mowbray Stakes which are generally targeted by the same horses each year.

The change will add a different dynamic to the big races next year, notwithstanding that with five race meetings between 6 and 23 February it will be a hectic time doing the form!

Racing and Sports