Crowning moment for Doug Gorrel in Country Championships

Doug Gorrel and Kayla Nisbet following their win with Asgarda in the 2024 Country Championships final. Image: Bradley Photos.

In February of last year, Doug Gorrel was left questioning everything after a devastating truck crash en route to Albury left the Wagga trainer with a nasty leg injury, while the incident killed talented galloper Dantain’s Magic.

The crash cruelled his stable’s momentum, and the former racing writer-turned-horse trainer admitted there were some challenging moments. 

Fast forward 14 months, and Gorrel is celebrating the biggest win of his career after Asgarda’s boilover triumph in the $1 million Country Championships final at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

After running a good second to the Ron Stubbs-trained Bianco Vilano in the Southern Districts qualifier, Gorrel, at the time, said it was the biggest result of his career

“It probably is the biggest result for our stable,” he told NSW Country and Picnic Racing

“We won a couple of Federals at Canberra and a lot of Picnic Cups, and don’t get me wrong, we love racing at the picnics, and we’ve won some nice races, but we’ve never won a ticket to a million-dollar race.

“For that reason alone, this is the best second we could ever ask for; we feel like the winners.”

Asgarda flew under the radar leading into the rich country-restricted final at Royal Randwick on Saturday, and despite starting a $34 chance, Kayla Nisbet rode the four-year-old The Brothers War mare like the best horse in the race. 

After beginning nicely from gate six, the pair sat outside race favourite Bandi’s Boy (Jay Ford, $2.50), placed nicely just off the early leaders Musical Affair (Rachel King, $91) and Auzstar (Tyler Schiller, $61).

After turning for home, Asgarda exploded to the front, and there was no catching the Wagga galloper as she held on to win by a length and a quarter from the Brett Robb-trained Gallant Star (Sam Clipperton, $11). Three lengths back in third was the fast-finishing Rapbidash (Tommy Berry, $20) from the Lyle Chandler yard.

It’s undoubtedly an emotional win for Gorrel and the stable, who have endured much following the truck accident and, prior to that, a move from Canberra to Wagga.

Asgarda becomes just the second Southern Districts-trained horse to win the Country Championships final after the Gary Colvin-trained Another One triumphed in 2022. 

For more on the 2024 Country Championships and all series winners, click here.