JOCKEY Motoki Okada, aboard Hecentadove beats experienced Darren Coleman on Cedar Manor at Murwillumbah.
JOCKEY Motoki Okada, aboard Hecentadove beats experienced Darren Coleman on Cedar Manor at Murwillumbah.

Apprentice bests veteran

IT was the two-horse race that stopped a region.

The veteran, a legend of regional racing, was up against the apprentice, a 22-year-old go-getter.

It was race three of Murwillumbah’s Melbourne Cup Day – the Stone and Wood Brewing Handicap over 2000m.

Darren Coleman, 37, was onboard Cedar Manor ($1.80), and apprentice Motoki Okada was alongside on Hecentadove ($1.50).

Both plied their trade under Danny Bowen, and both had a point to prove.

It wasn’t about jockeying for position, but putting the horse in the right spot at the right time.

Okada did just that – the pint-sized prodigy rising to the occasion to prevail.

In what was quite literally a two-horse race, both runners jumped well, but it was Hecentadove, the Lismore Cup winner, who led from the front.

Coleman tucked Cedar Manor in on his heels, as both sped down the home straight and across the finish line to a rousing cheer from the one-time punters, who were unaware there was a lap still to run.

They continued at a leisurely pace from the 1600 to 1000m mark, before Okada made his move.

With the gap bridged to one-and-three-quarter lengths, Coleman decided it was time to kick on.

Approaching the 600m mark the difference was back to three-quarters-of-a-length as Cedar Manor wound up.

They both picked up the pace around the home turn and the race was on. With 300m to go both jockeys fired their horses, and Cedar Manor took over by a neck. But the $1.50 favourite found another gear.

They ran neck-and-neck through the 150m mark, but it was Hecentadove who got home by half a length.

It was a gallant performance to fight back from the seasoned horse, in a race that caller Daniel Farrell described as “very entertaining but tough to call, because you have to fill in a lot of gaps”.

While Coleman would usually be satisfied with a second-place finish, in this case that also meant he was last. Despite his years, it was the veteran’s first two-horse race, and he wasn’t too happy about the result.

“Hecentadove was always going to lead from the front, so I was just aiming to sit tight and run over him in the straight, but obviously it didn’t work out,” he said.

“I guess I was outridden today, but don’t tell him that!”

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