Cranbourne trainer Michael Hughes capped off a big couple of days of celebration when five-year-old trotting mare Express Yourself won the opening race at Yarra Valley on Monday afternoon.
Hughes, an avid Richmond supporter, enjoyed a week of highs starting with Dusty Martin’s Brownlow Medal win and culminating in the Tigers’ first premiership since 1980 at the weekend. And when stable banter on Monday morning turned to football Hughes was understandably upbeat about his team’s victory, especially given that he was just six years old when the Tigers last won a flag.
When asked if that’s as good as it gets Hughes optimistically joked “A winner today might just top things off.”
And Hughes got just what he hoped for.
Express Yourself started a well-supported favourite at Yarra Valley after a number of solid recent efforts and began quickly from the tapes to assume the lead running to the post on the first occasion.
Driver Greg Sugars allowed the daughter of CR Commando to roll along at a leisurely tempo at the head of affairs before upping the ante with a lap to travel. Last start winner My Jackofdiamonds issued a challenge running down the back straight the final time and Express Yourself responded gamely. The pair engaged in a spirited battle before Express Yourself scored a well-deserved victory by four metres on the line with outsider Sumo Grin running on from back in the field to fill third placing.
Express Yourself has now put together three wins and a further ten placings from just 21 career starts and should continue to be competitive as she works her way through harness racing’s lower country grades.
In the interim Hughes is looking forward to the racetrack return of stablemate Cruisin Around, who missed most his four-year-old season through injury after being crowned Australian Three-Year-Old Trotter of the Year in 2015-16.
He also has high hopes for his freshman batch of five two-year-old trotters who have just completed their second preparation and will resume at the Cranbourne Training Centre at the beginning of November.
The youngsters include four graduates of this year’s Premier Trotting Sale and a home-bred filly by Yankee Spider from Hughes’ own former handy race mare, Gatesys Girl.
By: David Scott
Photo: Claire Weston Photography