THERE could hardly have been a more appropriately named horse to have won the Ulmarra Chip-In Cup at Grafton racecourse on Saturday.
Half Sober, trained by John McLachlan at Inverell, powered to the line under apprentice Codey Hodges to claim his second win and sum up the spirit of the crowd in the last race of an eventful afternoon.
Earlier, spirits were dampened by a bad race fall which left jockey Allan Chau and his mount Simple Love lying motionless on the track.
The horse cantered on after eventually freeing itself from the running rail while Chau was transported to hospital by ambulance with a fractured C2 vertebra.
Local concern was obvious but only minutes later the crowd turned its attention to every television on course to cheer as Australia's greatest sprinter Black Caviar made a triumphant return to the track with a record-breaking win in the Lightning Stakes at Flemington.
With continuing drizzle at Grafton, many patrons were confined to the bar areas and enjoyed the touch of irony as Half Sober struck the line to claim the feature event of the day.
"This is only his second win but the way he's coming along this preparation there might be a few more in him," McLachlan said.
"His maiden win at Inverell was probably his best win to date as it was in a local feature race and he blitzed them by almost four lengths.
"But to win this race is a great thrill and if he keeps going the way he's going he might be able to win something better down the track too."
Half Sober scored a three-quarter length win over Three Lucky Eights and Albizia to claim the 1400m class one.
Jockey Matthew Paget started the afternoon with a winning double after expertly guiding Geecup to victory in the opening event, and Kingston Time to a win in the third race.
Two further placings ensured the popular local hoop claimed riding honours on the day.
The mood in the jockey's room after Chau crashed to the turf in race four was sombre, with many thanking their luck for avoiding the carnage.
"It was a sobering reminder of the risk you take every day," Paget said.
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