Chelsea Hillier claims first Country Cup at Taree

Chelsea Hillier and Rod Northam combined to win Tuesday’s $30,000 Harrington Cup.

Chelsea Hillier and Rodney Northam kicked off 2024 in fine style, winning the Harrington Cup (1300m) with Jacenza ($4.60) at Taree’s Manning Valley Race Club on Tuesday. 

Hillier took her chance from the wide gate (8) and trekked forward on the four-year-old, with the pair leading with five furlongs remaining.

From there, the Scone galloper broke his rival’s hearts, leading the rest of the way to score a gritty win in the $30,000 feature.

“I drew bad, so I had to make a decision early,” Hillier told NSW Country and Picnic Racing

“Nothing was really happening, and I chose to go to the front. He has led before, and it’s not really out of the ordinary for him, and he went to the front, got his own way, settled beautifully and had a nice kick at the end.”

The Shooting To Win gelding, raced by the Newton family, has won 4 from 12 and is looming as a Country Championships contender later this year. 

Hillier doesn’t believe the 1400m will be an issue when push comes to shove in the Hunter-North West qualifier.

“He definitely hit a bit of a flat spot, and I could hear the other horses coming, but to be fair to him, he really dug in and fought to the line,” she said. 

“It was nice to see him run it out very strong, and 1400m shouldn’t be a problem either.”

For the 1.5kg claiming apprentice, the win means everything, with the Harrington Cup Hillier’s first Country Cup win in 58 career victories.

“It’s a great way to kick off the New Year,” Hillier said.

Jacenza holds on for a win in Tuesday’s Harrington Cup at Taree.

“That would be my first Country Cup win, and that’s very cool and very special, and I’ve got Rod to thank; he is a great boss, and I’m really lucky. 

“He’s a great support person for me in more ways than one, and I’m very lucky to have him.”

Hillier enjoyed a good day at Taree, and two races earlier, she brought up the first leg of a winning double, claiming victory aboard the Wayne Wilkes-trained Lensman ($12) in the 1250m Class One Handicap.

Storming home down the outside, the locally trained five-year-old was too strong for his rivals, winning by 1.5 lengths. 

Hillier, who is fast becoming one of the more likable apprentices in country NSW, threw her goggles into the 800-strong Harrington Cup crowd after both wins, and she was pleased to make some punter’s day at the races.

“Everyone here today wants my goggles,” Hillier laughed.

“Someone might have to buy me more goggles. Still. If that’s what makes them happy, I’m happy.”

On a good day at Taree, Aaron Bullock booted home a winning treble, winning on the Greg Hickman-trained Jonny Be Swift ($3) in the 2000m Benchmark 58, the Neil Godbolt-trained October Revolution ($2.50) in the 1000m Benchmark 58, and the Kris Lees-trained Oakfield Mamselle ($1.50) in the 1600m Benchmark 58.

For all results, click here.