Fleet Baron (on the inside) edges out Zod (3) to win the Yamba Cup at the Grafton races on Saturday.
Fleet Baron (on the inside) edges out Zod (3) to win the Yamba Cup at the Grafton races on Saturday. LYNNE MOWBRAY

Fleet Baron staves off retirement

TRAINER Trevor Hardy and apprentice Michael Fitzgerald breathed a huge sigh of relief after injury-plagued gelding Fleet Baron lasted to win the Yamba Golf and Country Club Yamba Cup (1000m) at the Grafton races on Saturday by the barest possible margin – a nose.

“I thought he got beat. Even when I saw the replay I was sure he got beat,” Coffs Harbour-based Hardy said.

“There was nothing in it but I’m glad Fleet Baron lasted.

“He’s been a real warrior.”

After returning to scale, Victorian Fitzgerald, on loan to Jim Jarvis at Coffs Harbour, echoed Hardy’s sentiments.

“I looked across and thought the other horse (Zod) just got us,” he said.

The thrilling finale was fitting for the return of the Yamba Cup to the Northern Rivers racing calendar.
Fleet Baron’s victory over the Ernie Berger-trained Zod (Matthew Bennett) and In Order (Darron Coleman), staved off immediate retirement for the gallant eight-year-old.

“If he didn’t win that was it,” Hardy said.

“Now he’s won I’ll have a talk to the owner and he might have a couple more but his days are numbered.”

Fleet Baron was bred by part-owner Ray Pensch and raced by Pensch and his wife Francene, daughters Tracey Craig and Karen Duchemin and Hardy’s daughter, Joanne.

The gelding has been retired twice but somehow made it back and, amazingly, keeps winning.

“He was very good as a young horse then he did a tendon which we patched up and got him back on track,” Hardy said.

“Then he had two chips taken off his fetlock joints and later did another tendon.

“At one stage he had exactly 1000 days off racing. He’s the sort of horse that could have two broken legs but would still try.”

Fleet Baron has won six of 27 starts and close to $150,000 in prizemoney.

Yamba Golf and Country Club president Jim Kelly confirmed the club was keen to continue the Yamba Cup revival.

“It’s been a fantastic day. Now the benchmark has been set, we’re keen to continue our association with the day and the Clarence River Jockey Club,” Kelly said.

The Peter Roach-trained Keepa Movin Dan arrived late out wide to claim The Daily Examiner / Tony White Media Benchmark 45 Handicap (1200m).

And owner Clint Symons, formerly from Jindabyne, was finally rewarded for a ‘whim’ when the David Campbell-trained On The Barby won the Time Square Maiden (1200m).

“I went to the Inglis sales to buy some mares to school for polo but they were too dear,” Symons, who races the five-year-old with his wife Kristi, said.

“In the end I said stuff it, I’m not going home without taking a horse with me and On The Barby was the result.

“I thought today’s race would be too short but my trainer (Campbell) knew better.”


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