AS far as the Latrobe Valley Racing Club is concerned, the history books will say there was a Traralgon Cup in 2023.

After facing setback after setback in order to get a meeting going on Traralgon Cup Day, there was cause for celebration when the event finally took place last Sunday.

This year’s Traralgon Cup offered a proud moment for those at the volunteer-run club, who had refused to throw in the towel despite the odds seemingly being stacked against them.

In the last two months, the club had already lost its only other race meeting for the year – Derby Day, due to track issues, and very nearly lost its marquee meeting as well.

The Traralgon Cup was originally scheduled for Sunday, December 3, only for floods to lead to its cancelation.

Fortunately, Latrobe Valley Racing Club was granted a reprieve from Racing Victoria, who agreed to postponed the meeting one week.

Racing against the clock, the crew at Glenview Park put their shoulder to the wheel to make sure everything was ready by the time the proposed date rolled around.

Knowing the postponement would mean a hit to bookings, Latrobe Valley Racing Club was willing to concede so long as racing took place.

While the crowd was understandably down on previous years, those that did turn up at least had on-course action to enjoy.

In an industry where winners are determined by who crosses the line first, that in itself was victory enough.

There was the usual attractions at the Traralgon Cup, with Fashions on the Field, live music and marquees in full swing.

Newborough fashionista Catherine Noy won best dressed lady, adding to her sash won at the 2022 Sale Cup.

Those watching the men’s section wouldn’t have thought the crowd was lower than usual, with the line-up extending the entire length of the stage.

Latrobe Valley Racing Club committee member Barry Whitehead was required to show all his versatility, taking the microphone to MC the event.

Whitehead addressed attendees earlier in the day gathered in the dining room, making particular mention of the work of chairman Frank Bezzina.

By the end of the main race, Bezzina was fighting back exhaustion, but equally bursting with pride at what the club had managed to achieve.

“We got there,” he simply said, breathing a huge sigh of relief.

“2023 Bet365 Traralgon Cup happened – no abandonment, so good, good feeling, lot of pressure even at the start of the day … (now we) can relax.

“This was not going to happen if we didn’t push it. Racing Victoria granted, they said ‘you need to have your feature race day’, they’ve got trust in the club now, and we’ve pulled off a good meet … I’m so happy and so proud of everyone.”

The turnaround has indeed been remarkable, with some pundits even as late as last Saturday night uncertain if the Traralgon Cup would go ahead following another day of heavy rain.

As Bezzina said however, a mountain of work behind the scenes allowed the club to pull through, and produce a facility that will no doubt provide industry confidence for Glenview Park.

“The committee has been working hard, everyone’s just praising the track so much,” he said.

“Craig Newitt went to the stewards and commented how good the track was today, and then Alana Kelly’s feedback there in front of everyone, that’s gold for us. (Traralgon Cup wining jockey Alana Kelly made mention of the quality of the Glenview Park track upon accepting the Traralgon Cup trophy).

“We can only go upwards now.”

Bezzina also wished to pay tribute to fellow Gippsland racing clubs, who had offered no shortage of support during what had been a fairly traumatic time.

“All the other clubs supported us, every one of them,” he said.

“Moe, Bairnsdale, Sale, Stony Creek, they’ve been there for me the whole time, we’re all friends – Gippsland Racing, the best turf on Earth.”

The best turf on Earth could also be the strongest.

Traralgon has now overcome floods, just as Moe did for their cup last year, while Sale Turf Club held a meeting earlier this year following major flooding in its region.


Station One won the big one

NAMING a racehorse with the word ‘one’ in it became quite fitting at this year’s Traralgon Cup.

That its full name was Station One only completed a double, possibly triple, entendre.

Station One ran express only, and won (one) Sunday’s Bet 365 Traralgon Cup.

The gates of Latrobe Valley Racing Club may well have been a train station, as the five-year-old gelding jumped from the start and lead virtually the entire 1900 metre distance.

Only once was Station One overtaken, which came when Samedi snuck in with just over 400 metres to go.

The fellow five-year-old gelding couldn’t maintain its speed though, and Station One kicked strongly in the last 50 metres to leave the field in its dust.

Station One got home by just under two lengths from last year’s Traralgon Cup winner Starspangled Baby, trained in Sale by Andrew Perdon.

For its worth, Starspangled Baby has performed admirably on the Gippsland Cup circuit this year, running fourth in the Sale Cup last October.

Sunday however belonged to the Liam Howley stable at Mount Macedon, as well as jockey Alana Kelly.

Howley heaped praise on Kelly, who in turn publicly praised the Latrobe Valley Racing Club track when presented her winning trophy.

The winning trainer described the performance as a “super ride” by Kelly, and revealed it was rather fortuitous to have her in the saddle.

“She’s got a real good feel on those sort of stayers, thankfully the meeting got pushed back a week because she (Alana) was unavailable last week,” Howley said.

In terms of the race itself, Howley said Station One ran to its strengths.

“He’s always got really good natural gate speed,” he said.

“She (Kelly) gave him a little squeeze at the start, he found the rail and then from our point of view it was a watch-and-see from there. He’s got a big tank on him, when she asked him at the half-mile he really quickened into it nicely and thankfully came off the bend nicely and put them away.”

Despite entering with $5.50 odds, Howley said the stable had reason to be optimistic.

“We were confident, he’s had a really good prep, and he’s just got a huge capacity,” he said.

“We’ve changed his program a little bit this time around, kept him nice and fresh, made full use of our facilities at home, just been able to balance his workload … he came here in really good order.”

From here, Howley said he may look to run Station One in a benchmark 78 at Mooney Valley before Christmas, but would “let the dust settle” first.

The Traralgon Cup win maintained good recent form for Station One, who won over a similar distance at Dunkeld last month, and came third in the Kyneton Cup on November 8.


Photo finish to decide top three at Valley meet

LATROBE Valley Racing Club hosted an eight-card meeting on Traralgon Cup Day.

Persistent rain which fell in the days leading up to last Sunday’s event threatened to derail proceedings, but as it turned out, the wet weather actually inadvertently helped on a number of fronts.

The meeting had been originally scheduled for Sunday, December 3, but was pushed back a week due to the Glenview Park track being too damp.

A rodeo event, meant to held last Saturday night inside Glenview Park, was cancelled for similar reasons, which gave some reprieve to Latrobe Valley Racing Club from a logistics perspective.

The rodeo would have necessitated coordinating trucks, trailers and patrons crossing over the horse racing track, which would have surely added to the usual burden that goes with holding a race meeting.

With the rodeo called off however, and with rain falling Saturday, there was not only traffic taken off the racing track, but the track itself was given a chance to freshen up.

The track was a thick green by Sunday, and rated a Soft 6 for the entire meeting.

A field of seven horses took part in the Race 1 WIN Television Gippsland Maiden Plate over 1900 metres.

Of the seven, only two were in the finishing frame, although one of the them was still three lengths ahead when it crossed the line.

Wambeen, for Cranbourne trainer Trevor Andrews, opened the meeting on a positive note, with the four-year-old cruising to victory.

The second race saw a much closer finish.

Everett and Highland Dream were separated by a nose in the Latrobe City Council Maiden Plate (1365m), with the former stretching home on the outside.

The win provided another Cranbourne trainer with reason to smile, this time going to Enver Jusufovic.

Race 3, the RACV Solar Maiden Plate (1100m) was a one-sided affair.

More horses were scratched than ended up taking part, with only four competing.

While there was a 75 per cent chance of a place, it soon became clear there was no chance of anyone beating Accending, who strolled to victory by nearly five lengths for Mornington’s Jerome Hunter.

Race 4 gave backers more interest, although there was no great surprises as the three shortest priced favourites took podium spots.

The Morwell Bowling Club Maiden Plate (1100m) saw four-year-old gelding Graewazi win on the inside from Houso, giving Hunter a consecutive double.

The closest race for the day came before the cup, in the Race 5 TRFM Handicap (1100m).

A photo was needed to determine not only the winner, but first, second and third.

Even usual deadeye race caller and Stony Creek Racing Club Chief Executive, Adam Olszanski could not separate the winners, but eventually projected Catalina Black Cat as the winner over the PA system.

The five-year-old gelding hit the line on the outside from Citaleon, giving Mornington trainers David Brideoake and Matt Jenkins a win.

Race 6 was the Bet365 Traralgon Cup.

The penultimate race was the Race 7 Of The Track Handicap (1900m).

Another competitive finish saw the top five horses all get within two lengths of each other, but six-year-old gelding Flying Basil held on after taking the lead at the 800m.

The win gave locals reason to smile, as Flying Basil is trained in Bairnsdale by Jackson Pallot.

Sale trainer Damien Walkley also had a good run, with Fine Weather coming third.

Race 8 was arguably the most prestigious race outside the Traralgon Cup, with the Latrobe Valley Express Handicap (1365m) seeing out the day.

Mornington was again represented in the winners stable, with Estapaz doing it easy by two lengths for David and Coral Feek.

This year’s Moe Cup winning jockey Craig Newitt rode the last winner at Traralgon.

The next country cup on the Gippsland calendar will be Stony Creek on Sunday, March 10.

Prime viewing: Latrobe Valley Racing Club members watch the Traralgon Cup.

All yours: Traralgon Cup winning trainer Liam Howley is presented the trophy by Latrobe Valley Racing Club Chairperson Frank Bezzina.

Victory: Station One wins the 2023 Traralgon Cup. Photographs: Liam Durkin