Justin Wood returns to the scales with Murwillumbah Cup winner Gather.
Justin Wood returns to the scales with Murwillumbah Cup winner Gather.

Gather's trainer keeps the faith

WHILE many might have been inclined to give up on Murwillumbah Cup winner Gather, Beaudesert-based trainer Ray Nicholson said he has always had a good opinion of the mare.

For all of her early promise, including wins at Ipswich and Grafton, the daughter of Octagonal had not won a race at her past 24 attempts.

After first heading over the Border Ranges to Murwillumbah in February in the hope of racing her as a middle distance specialist, Nicholson’s six-year-old charger seems to have found her niche as a stayer after an impressive victory in Monday’s Murwillumbah Cup (2000m).

Gather’s breeding suggested to Nicholson that she might be able to get over a bit of ground.

However, the first inkling of what was in store occurred three runs ago when she was entered to race over, what was for her, the novel distance of 1900m in the Christmas Cup at Ballina.

She was able to make her presence felt throughout and ran second behind easy winner Brilliant Ween.

That was followed by a close-up second place over 1916m at Coffs Harbour on Thursday.

Nicholson says that “big mamma” - as connections affectionately call the strapping mare - seemed to enjoy racing over the longer distances, and it was just a case of building up her stamina and finding the right races.

Suddenly a tilt at the Murwillumbah Cup wasn’t as outlandish as it might have sounded even a few months earlier.

When she knuckled down for the job of securing the Tweed River Jockey Club’s premier race, Gather ($8.00) made it all look easy.

Sitting outside the girth of natural frontrunner and 2009 Lismore Cup winner Hecentadove, jockey Justin Wood took off on the approaches to the turn and straightened a couple of lengths in front, a cakewalk ensuing.

The winning margin was 4½ lengths to Bold Contact, the 2009 Lismore Cup runner-up, and Lismore Cup champion Hecentadove who ran third.

Nicholson has entered Gather in Saturday’s $45,000 Sky Racing Class 6 Plate over 2118m at Eagle Farm, and said that she has pulled upnicely.

She is well weighted at 55.5kg, minus 3.0kg for Justin Wood who claims an apprentice allowance in town.

“I expect her to do well now she’s in form,” Nicholson said.

“Mares tend to be that way.

“Once they find form, they hold onto it.”

In Monday’s other feature race, the 1200m Murwillumbah Newmarket Handicap, jockey Lorna Cook was able to pick up a late ride on Blinkin Easy ($11.00), and walk away with another trophy for her mantelpiece.

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