Connie Greig-trained Hemsted wins Picnic Champion Series

Connie Greig (second from left) with NSWPRA Picnic Champion Series winner Hemsted. Photo: Racing Photography.
Connie Greig (second from left) with NSWPRA Picnic Champion Series winner Hemsted. Photo: Racing Photography.

Connie Greig has capped off a dominant 2021/22 NSW Picnic Racing Association (NSWPRA) season, with Hemsted winning the NSW Picnic Champion Series final at Dubbo on Saturday. 

The Dubbo trainer, who won the NSWPRA trainer’s title, combined with leading hoop Leandro Ribeiro, who coincidently owns Hemsted, and Greig was pleased that the pair could get the job done in the $50,000 final.

“To win it with Leo’s horse made it even better,” she said. 

“We both set out this year to win it. We both ran second in the (jockey and trainer) premierships last year, and we both ran second in the final last year (with Malibu Stacy), and we thought we would have a go at winning both this year. 

“We won our premierships, and that was an achievement and to win the final together was the icing on the cake.”

Hemsted finished strongly in the 1400m event, beating the Gavin Groth-trained favourite, Danspur (Grant Seccombe, $4) by 1.46 lengths, while Hemsted’s stablemate and early leader Brooklyn Star (Shaun Cooper, $5) finished third and was 1.7 lengths behind the winner.

Connie Greig (middle) with her jockeys Wayne Wheatley, John Wilson, Breanna Bourke, Leandro Ribeiro, Shaun Cooper and Jordan Sanders. Photo: Racing Photography.

Interestingly, Hemsted was third emergency after the barrier draw and Greig was forced to scratch Get Up Alby, Equilibrium and Merdeka in order for Hemsted to gain a start, and she admitted it was the plan all along. 

“We have tried four times to get there and win it, and it was always the plan to run him if we could get him in there,” Greig said. 

“You can have half the field, but you want to have your best ammo (ammunition) in action, and because you only get once a year to have a good go at it, we wanted to have him in the race.”

In fact, Hemsted was sent to Greig ahead of the 2022/23 NSWPRA season, with Ribeiro earmarking him as a potential Picnic Champion Series galloper from the outset. 

“That’s why Julia (Presits) and Leo sent him out here. The plan was for next season and to qualify him for the final because we thought we were no hope of getting a run this year,” Greig said. 

“He hadn’t even won a picnic race to get in the final, but because he had some points, we thought why not put him in and see if he gets a run, and he did, and he ended up being the best horse with the best jockey.”

Connie Greig (second from right) with her hard-working strappers. Racing Photography.

The leading picnic trainer had six starters in the final and 10 of the final 16 after acceptances, and while she was happy to look back on a successful season and final, Greig admitted it wasn’t by design.  

“We never expected to have that many in the final, but they deserved to be there,” Greig said. 

“We just went to the races, and it was the way it worked out for us in the end.”

The lead-up to the 2021/22 Picnic Champion Series final was an interrupted one for all involved, with the race originally meant to be run and won at Coonamble and Coonabarabran before wet weather cruelled both meetings.

Greig certainly felt the impact, with her stables flooded earlier this month, meaning she was forced to move her team, but she believes the flooding and wet weather impacted every trainer involved in the final.  

“Over the last month, flooding has interrupted us, but in saying that, everyone that was there in the final was in the same boat,” Greig said. 

Racing Photography captured this fantastic photo of Connie Greig’s team in front of a bumper Dubbo crowd on Saturday.

“Whether it was Wagga, Gunnedah, everyone has copped floods and abandoned meetings and preparations have been blown out of the water.

“It seemed worse for me because I have so many horses, but everyone felt the impact and we just had to deal with it.”

Greig hopes to put the flooding behind her as she prepares for a bigger and better 2022/23 season of racing. 

Already the Dubbo trainer is leading the picnic trainer’s premiership with six winners, while she is fourth on the country trainer’s premiership standings with 15 victories and she also boasts a provincial winner, with Deel Street winning at Kembla Grange earlier this month. 

When asked what her secret to success was, she said it came down to hard work. 

“I don’t have a secret,” Greig laughed. 

“You know what it’s like, when you’re on a roll, you just keep rolling because they’ll eventually boot us off the old Ferris wheel.

“Things are going well. We have a hard-working team and it’s good reward for everyone involved.” 

As far as the 2022/23 NSWPRA season, Greig confirmed she will be a regular once again. 

“We’ll definitely keep following the picnics,” Greig said. 

“It wasn’t my plan to have 10 in the final this year, and that’s not my plan next year, but we will definitely keep going to the picnics and see how many we can get in next year.”

For the full result of the 2021/22 NSWPRA Picnic Champion Series final along with other results from Dubbo, readers can click here