New age of racing glory
Arthur Avis ticked one item off his bucket list and immediately replaced it with another when his flying filly Lady Royale won the $ 100,000 J Swap Contractors Matamata Breeders’ Stakes on Saturday.
In post-race celebrations that captivated the huge crowd on track for the highlight of the Matamata Racing Club’s year, the South Auckland nonagenarian proved the perfect complement to Matamata’s treasured centenarian, Sadie Swap.
‘‘In all the years I’ve been racing horses, winning this race is a highlight for me,’’ said 90-year-old Arthur. ‘‘Now I’m going to put making Mrs Swap’s age on my bucket list!’’
It’s quite remarkable that between them, the matriarch of the family firm that sponsors Matamata’s flagship race and the winning owner were the two most senior members of the 4000-plus crowd packed into the course.
Unfazed by the oppressively humid conditions, their synergy as the trophies were handed out, accolades delivered and gratitude reciprocated was simply delightful.
Somewhere towards the other end of the age scale, Samantha Spratt added to the occasion as the first female jockey to win the Matamata Breeders’ Stakes, completing a feature two-year-old double after also winning the Reid & Harrison Slipper on Prince Mambo.
That meant two trophies for the former Matamata-based jockey, each of which was delivered by Arthur – complete with a mischievous kiss.
‘‘I can finally say I’ll die a happy woman,’’ she joked.
‘‘I’m thrilled to win this race and to do it for dear old Arthur is magic.’’
As birdcage MC Andre Neill commented when it was all over, of the many similar events he had officiated at, the Matamata Breeders’ Stakes formalities were the most humorous and enjoyable that he had ever been involved in.
Others taking part in the day’s proceedings included international model Kylie Bax, who has the experience to appreciate the on-track action and what was on display in the Tuscany Road Fashion in the Field.
‘‘ It’s been a wonderful day’s racing and I was very impressed with the standard of the competitors in the fashion categories,’’ she said.
Sheree Sheenan was named as the Tuscany Road Fashion in the Field Supreme winner.
Matamata Racing Club president John Moore summed up another successful Breeders’ Stakes day.
‘‘It’s tremendously satisfying to showcase racing and all that goes with it and know we got it right,’’ he said. ‘‘The crowd that rolled up to enjoy the day, the quality of the fields and a track the jockeys described as perfect.
‘‘ The Breeders’ Stakes result and what followed was something else, you couldn’t have written a better script. It was great for the connections and sponsors alike and great for racing.’’
For more go to pgs 7, 8 and 25.
Top team: Winning jockey Samantha Spratt embraces Arthur Avis.
Acknowledgment: Sadie Swap receives her flowers from Matamata Racing Club president John Moore.