by Bill North
RACING: GRAFTON jockey Matthew McGuren rode two winners at Clarence River Jockey Club in what was a fitting start to the 2017/18 racing season on his home track yesterday.
During the day McGuren was awarded his second consecutive Grafton Jockey of the Year trophy, having ridden 20 winners at Grafton during the 2016/17 season.
He rode a total of 114 winners, eclipsing his previous best of 104 and finished in the top 10 in Australia.
"I didn't think I'd get near it again," McGuren said of beating his previous season's efforts.
McGuren has started 2017/18 right where he left off, with four winners already in the bank prior to yesterday.
"A good start, hopefully onwards and upwards from here," he said.
On the appropriately titled Premiership Winners Day, he added Siroccan Lad and Yeppoon to the list, to take an early lead in the race for a third premiership alongside Matthew Paget as jockeys to ride doubles on the first of 25 race meetings at Grafton in 2017/18.
"A find it a lot easier racing here than anywhere else," McGuren said of his love affair for the Grafton track.
"It's just down the road and I know the track like the back of my hand."
Back from a lengthy spell, seven-year-old gelding Siroccan Lad ($8) proved up to the challenge in the Peter Schumacher CG&E Class 1 Handicap (1006m), holding off a fast-finishing I Am You Are ($1.65fav, Cejay Graham) for Ballina trainer William Pholi.
"It was a really good effort from the horse and the stable to get him here and peak first up without a trial," McGuren said.
"He didn't look the winner in the yard, but in the straight I didn't want to be on anything else.
"I bided my time behind the leader, it gave him something to concentrate on, and I used that to my advantage."
McGuren added his second on $2.10 favourite Yeppoon in the National Jockeys Trust Maiden Handicap (1706m) for Murwillumbah trainer Matthew Dunn, who was incidentally named Grafton Trainer of the Year with 13 winners throughout the 2016/17 season.
The Matthew McGuren Benchmark 65 provided a chance at a treble with his last ride of the day. But his mount Prince Manitou struggled with the 59.5kg weight to finish unplaced.
Meanwhile, Wauchope jockey Jackson Murphy was named Grafton Apprentice Jockey of the Year.
2017 Race Dates
Upcoming races at Grafton
- Saturday, September 2 (Coutts Crossing Cup)
- Thursday, September 14
- Thursday, September 26
- Tuesday, October 17
- Tuesday, October 31
- Wednesday, November 8 (Kensei Club Jacaranda Cup Day)
- Tuesday, November 21
- Sunday, December 3 (Christmas Cup Day)