Locally trained mare Vernnay gave hobby trainer Jon Stephens and her connections a huge thrill when she led all the way to win the Hygain Pace at Melton on Monday night.
Stephens combines training a team of two pacers at the Cranbourne Training Centre with full-time employment as a team leader at Tip Top Bakeries in nearby Dandenong South and was confident of success leading into the Melton assignment.
“Her last run was super when she ran third after sitting parked,” Stephens said after the race. “She isn’t blessed with a huge sprint but can stay and I said to Greg before the race that if it was run at a good tempo then she’d be hard to beat.”
As it happened Vernnay was able to lead from her inside draw off the mobile start and reinsman Greg Sugars was able to dictate the terms of the race to suit the daughter of Art Major. Vernnay took the field through each of the first three quarter mile sectionals in 29 seconds and change and had her rival struggling turning for home.
Despite getting a bit weary over the concluding stages Vernnay held on to score by one and a half metres on the line from Totally Shattered with Make Me Happy running third.
Stephens didn’t have much time to celebrate on race-night and only grabbed an hour or two sleep between getting home to his Cranbourne base and then signing on for the night shift at Tip Top later in the evening.
One man who didn’t miss the chance to savour the moment however was part-owner and work colleague Mick Ramstein. Now an avid enthusiast, Ramstein was “bitten by the bug” when he joined Stephens for a night at the races a few years ago and now enjoys an active involvement.
“I love being around the horses,” Ramstein explained. “I get to the stables most days and have taken out a stable-hand licence. Harness racing is just so hands-on if you want it to be and I love it.”
Ramstein also enjoys having his wife Martine and their two children taking a keen interest and has even involved his mother-in-law and brother-in-law in the ownership of Vernnay.
Immediate plans for Vernnay haven’t been finalised as yet but stable-mate Nevada Jane will be heading to the Cranbourne meeting on Thursday 31 January after an impressive first-up second for the Stephens stable.
Racing returns to Cranbourne this Thursday night (24th January) with Danman, Redand Blue Fella and Flyin Around appearing to be the best of the locals with winning chances.
By David Scott
Photo: Harness Racing Victoria