Benalla Ensign

Last-Race Russ, BB up to old tricks

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He still thinks it’s a joke that’s worn a bit thin, but while Last-Race Russell Osborne keeps winning last races at meetings around the state he might as well just give up and enjoy the ride.

Because in the $22,000 Watch Live Racing on Sportsbet Handicap over 1000m on the Pakenham synthetic track on Monday, old Russ was up to his tricks again — this time with Billabong Bilby.

And in keeping with another part of what is fast becoming a trademark, the horse coming runner up to BB was the odds-on favourite — and its camp fired off a protest so fast no-one is sure if their horse was even back in the mounting yard.

When the field had jumped Steel Choice took up the running — but only because Michael Poy on Billabong Bilby happily surrendere­d the slot and tucked in behind the pacesetter.

And the race went that way — at a fairly brisk pace — into the straight at which time Poy went to work on BB and started cutting into the deficit.

But just before the 200m mark everyone watching the final event on the day’s card would have seen BB suddenly shift its line — into the path of the favourite Groot, which was starting to gather its own withering finish. And then just before the post veered suddenly again.

Osborne, who was trainer, driver, strapper and team cheer leader for the day said his horse had run well ‘‘but I can’t hang around for a protest hearing, I’ve got a three hours plus drive ahead of me to Benalla and don’t want to hit the traffic’’.

He needn’t have worried; the protest was dismissed almost as fast as it had been lodged, with the winning margin of 1.25 lengths enough to convince stewards the race was well and truly over regardless.

With a Benalla meeting on Tuesday, Osborne said the reason he made the three-hour trek to Pakenham was BB’s 53 rating — and the five-year-old mare’s very wonky knees.

“It’s hard getting her a start, and over 1000m — at her previous run she got in as first emergency,” Osborne said.

“Sometimes the gaps between runs are so long you’d think she had been spelled.

“But this win has lifted her to a 57 so if she pulls up fine I’ve got a 0-58 in mind at Echuca in two weeks.

As a 53 I doubt she would have even got a run at Benalla on Tuesday and this was only her second run this prep.”

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