Not a winner, but happy to race

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Fortune favours the brave, I reminded myself, and I prepared to help saddle my steed as a late entry for the quarter mile sprint at the Hawea Picnic Races.

I had exercised racehorses for a number of years before pursuing journalistic endeavours, and I still considered myself a rider first and foremost, even if I was now a little rusty.

I met Hawea trainers Gerry and Denise Shaw a few weeks ago for a preview article, and after chatting they had kindly offered me a ride on their sedate standardbred, Bracken, on race day.

Apart from a relaxing horse trek in July, I hadn’t been back in the saddle for at least a year, but I had been unable to get the idea out of my head and by the time race day rolled around I was determined to have a go.

I was filled with nervous anticipation as I swung up on to Bracken’s back, and as we made our way to the starting line I quickly decided that the goal was simply to make it to the wire without embarrassing myself.

Bracken behaved perfectly while the three other horses began to spin on the spot as we awaited the starter’s signal, but when the race was under way the others were away like rockets and we were left to chase their heels at a comfortable extended canter as they ate up the ground ahead of us.

We were never going to win, but it was thrilling to see the crowd lining the fence and cheering as the horses raced for home. The passion and atmosphere was infectious, and I crossed the line with a huge smile before gently bringing Bracken to a halt.

Country race days really were in a league of their own. I grinned, and I thanked Denise and Gerry for trusting me with their boy, before my friends and I headed to the river to cool down.