The Cranbourne Cup queen used a familiar home straight to signal she is well and truly back at the top of her sport, with Jodi Quinlan’s Saturday night victory a triumph over adversity.
This may be the sweetest of her four Decron Cranbourne Gold Cup wins, having come less than 12 months after suffering career threatening injuries when last Christmas Eve she was kicked in the side by a horse, which resulted in a lacerated kidney, spine fractures and a long road to recovery.
The tables turned in her favour in the cup when Quinlan picked up the catch drive on trainer Emma Stewart’s gelding Phoenix Prince, the first time she had steered the six-year-old.
“You never know what’s around the corner, I had no idea I would find myself on this horse tonight,” Quinlan said.
“It’s been a tough nearly 12 months and to be here tonight and everyone’s here, it means the world. I’m basically a local here, that’s my fourth Cranbourne Cup, I’m pretty thrilled. “
Throughout the race Quinlan was able to lie in waiting while her stablemates set alight the 2555-metre classic, with Tam Major taking over the lead from next-big-thing Hurricane Harley.
Soon after the bell Code Black emerged three-wide and Quinlan tagged on to its back, pulling the plugs at the final turn as Phoenix Prince set after his stablemates.
The four Stewart-trained runners were spread across the track and in the final 50 metres it was Phoenix Prince who got over the top, prompting an emotion-filled salute from Quinlan in what was just her second victory since she returned from her lay-off.
“I had conversations both for and against for me to come back driving,” she said. “I was bedridden for a while and then into a wheelchair, had to start to walk again. It’s been a long road back, been nearly 12 months, I’ve been back driving the last three weeks.
“To come back and win a race like that was very satisfying. I was fortunate enough that I have been able to win four cups here and I started off here, it’s one of my home tracks, here and Warragul – I had my first trial drive here many years ago.
“It was a local crowd and the reception I got when I come back through the horse shoe and into the parade ring was quite amazing. It was very humbling.”
The crowd was well entertained with the night also featuring the Aldebaran Park Bruce Skeggs Memorial Cranbourne Trotters Cup, when Tornado Valley reaffirmed his status as Victoria’s leading trotter with victory ahead of Dance Craze and Magicool.
Trained by Andy Gath and driven by Kate Gath, Tornado Valley led the three-wide chain and when breeze horse Red Hot Tooth, who loomed as a contender, galloped at the turn the favourite pounced to salute by two metres.
Cranbourne will next hosts the trots on Sunday, December 29 when the club cnducts its popular Kids Dy Out race meeting.
By Michael Howard
Photo: Stuart McCormick