It was an emotional day of firsts at Tomingley earlier this month, with Dubbo trainer Ashley Gibson training his first winner.
The 44-year-old watched on proudly as Zurbaran won the 1500m Class B Handicap, with the five-year-old bolting in by 1.26 lengths when winning for jockey, Leandro Ribeiro.
It was a bittersweet result for Gibson, who only took up training in December of last year after being thrust into the role following the sudden and tragic passing of his father and popular Dubbo trainer, Allan Gibson, who died at the age of 78 following a short battle with cancer.
“Dad first got crook in July and August of 2021, and that’s when he stopped coming to the stables, and we thought he would be back,” Gibson said.
“I was his foreman for such a long time, but I was looking after it after he got sick, and even now when I go to the races, he is always in the back of my mind.”
It was a touching result, as Zurbaran was previously trained by Allan, making the win even more special to connections.
“It was great and what made it even better was that dad really liked the horse,” Gibson said.
“Early on in the peace, dad even thought he might be our Country Championships horse, but he didn’t quite get that far.
“It was a good moment; there was that many people around, and I was trying to hide the emotions, but it was very special, and the win meant a lot.”
Gibson joked that his first winner took longer than expected to arrive, but he was pleased to see the Not A Single Doubt gelding turn things around at Tomingley.
“Even though it was at the picnics, it’s a win and it’s hard to win anywhere these days and I was happy to get the first one out the way,” Gibson said.
“This preparation, he has been a little disappointing, and I had been scratching my head as to what was wrong with him.
“Maybe it was a fitness thing, and so we gave him a few more runs under his belt and changed tactics and it worked out.
“He won by a length and a half in the end, but it wasn’t easy. It was a good win and a great ride by Leandro Ribeiro.”
The Dubbo trainer has a team of eight in work, and he said that would be enough for the time being, especially while he balanced life as a trainer and equine dentist.
“At the moment I have eight here and they are all the ones that we had when dad was still here and we either bought them or we bred them,” Gibson said.
“I enjoy that number to be honest. I don’t really want 20 horses in work; I’m a (equine) dentist by trade, and if I had many more, I couldn’t give them the attention they need.
“With work, and that number of horses, we keep quite busy, and I have my block of land out at Mendooran, where we have cattle and breed a few, so there is plenty to do.”