Kieren Hazelton scored the biggest win of his career at Cowra on Sunday, with Not Too Bad triumphing in a thrilling edition of the Cowra Cup.
Ridden by Mathew ‘The mayor of Cowra’ Cahill, who brought up his seventh victory in the time-honoured event, the Gilgandra-trained galloper raced in the back half of the field before the veteran jockey took off on a three-wide run.
Turning for home, Not Too Bad was five-wide, but the pair finished strongly to defeat the Michael Mulholland-trained Athena’s Lad (Nick Heywood, $2.90) by a neck, while two lengths back in third was the Clint Lundholm-trained Notabadidea (Ron Simpson, $15).
While much of the fanfare was around Mathew Cahill, who won three races on the day to claim the inaugural Reg Paine Memorial Jockey’s Challenge, there was a Gilgandra contingent on hand thrilled to see Hazelton win his first TAB Country Cup.
“It’s a great feeling, and I’m happier for my mate (Kieren Hazelton) here next to me more than myself, being that it is his first Country Cup,” said co-owner and Gilgandra Jockey Club president Jason Tate.
“I’m absolutely stoked for him; both his horses are flying, and it’s well-deserved.
“It’s Not Too Bad’s turn today after he was a bit unlucky and bumped the rail and spooked himself in the Gil (Gilgandra) Cup, and he got a bit of redemption today.”
After finishing a luckless fourth to the Michael Mulholland-trained Sea Of Flames in the Gilgandra Cup on January 7, Not To Bad finished almost four lengths in front of stablemate and 2023 Manilla Cup winner Turgenev when winning Sunday’s Cowra Cup, and despite the mixed results, Hazelton was just happy to knock off a good feature race.
“It’s a good feeling,” Hazelton told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“Just to get the monkey off the back, it’s good, and all-in-all, full credit to Matty.
“The ride won the race, and having two horses in the race, it’s a bittersweet feeling as you have two separate groups of owners and that sort of thing, but as Jason said, it was Not Too Bad’s turn today, and we thought he was unlucky in the Gilgandra Cup.
“He bumped the fence that day, and I’m not saying he definitely wins the race, but he gives it a shake.”
The five-year-old is now a seven-time winner, earning connections over $130,000 in prize money.
Still, Hazelton isn’t sure where he will go next with Not Too Bad, with the Pride Of Dubai gelding now well and truly an open company galloper.
“He’s gone through the grades, and at one stage we thought he was going to be alright, then at one stage we had him marked as a benchmark 58 or 66 horse, but to see him step up again and improve again, it’s just nice to have a good horse,” Hazelton said.
“He’ll carry a bit more weight wherever he goes next, and we’ll get to the point where we’re a bit limited for options.
“To be honest, I haven’t thought past today, and he’s pretty deep into his prep, but it’s hard to turn them out after a win like that, so we’ll see how he pulls up and go from there.”
Overall, it was a fantastic day at Cowra on Sunday.
In the Cowra Japan Cup, 1200m Open Handicap, the Barbara Joseph, Paul and Matt Jones-trained Merc had Country Cup king Quayde Krogh in the saddle, and the Canberra connection was impressive, taking out the $32,000 feature sprint.
A good crowd was in attendance for the club’s first TAB meeting since two floods swept through the region in November of 2022, and it was a glorious return to racing.
“It was a great result for the club and Cowra,” Tate said when asked about the success of the meeting.
“I met Pete (Ford) for the first time today, and I know the hours and the time it takes to get something like this up and running, and I commend them for putting on a great show and wish them the best after today’s great meeting.”