Doug Gorrel trained Sestina ‘cherry ripe’ for picnic final

Jockey Anaëlle Gangotena and Canberra trainer Doug Gorrel will combine again with Sestina in the NSWPRA Picnic Champion Series final at Coonamble on Sunday. Photo: Racing Photography.

Canberra trainer Doug Gorrel and his team will make the arduous journey to Coonamble today with Sestina lining up in the $50,000 NSWPRA Picnic Champion Series final.

In previous years, Gorrel has had the likes of Southern Gamble (5th in 2019) and Chief of Arlington (9th in 2020) compete in the 1400m final previously held at Dubbo in September, and he believed Sestina was his best to date of chance of winning the race.

“She is right in the race on her last run,” Gorrel said. 

“Southern Gamble wasn’t quite right when we took him back to the final, whereas with this girl, she has been racing really well and should be right in the finish.”

The seven-year-old qualified following picnic cup wins at Tullibigeal in March and Mudgee in June, and since then, she has predominantly competed in much tougher TAB races.

Known as a tough little sprinter, there were some questions marks on whether she would run out the seven-furlong trip.

Sestina proved any doubters wrong last time out, with the Poet’s Voice mare sticking on gamely to finish third, beaten less than a length, in a much tougher 1460m Benchmark 65 Handicap at Queanbeyan on September 28.

“That is why we went to that race. We had to try her at 1400m before the final,” Gorrel said.

“She toughed it out strongly and it was 1460m. She should be just about cherry ripe for the final.”

Amateur jockey, Anaelle Gangotena, who works for Gorrel will take the ride, and the Ecuadorian hoop has a strong affinity with Sestina. 

“Anaelle will ride her. She does all of her track work and she is not the easiest track work horse,” Gorrel said. 

“She tends to want to go fairly hard with everything she does but those two get along and they have a strong affinity with each other. I think Anaelle will do a good job on her.”

Sestina has been tipped by many other trainers in the final as ‘the horse to beat’, which is largely due to her recent TAB form, and while Gorrel believed she was a major player in the final, he wasn’t discounting the opposition.

“I think people would have thought she was suspect at 1400m, and she proved she could handle it last time and that’s why she is one of the horses to watch,” Gorrel said. 

“It won’t be easy. While they are picnic horses, they are the best of the picnic horses, and they are tough and strong, and you need to be tough and strong to win a final like this.”

With the 2020/21 final set to conclude a NSW picnic season like no other, with Covid-19 causing the cancellation of many once-a-year picnic and community meetings, it is nice to see the industry celebrated on the main stage at Coonamble.

Gorrel, a big supporter of the picnics, said he said he enjoyed the picnic final concept, but he hoped to see the series expand to different regions in the coming years.

“Absolutely. It is a great concept, and it attracts a lot of owners and trainers,” Gorrel said.

“If anything, I think we need three finals. A southern, central and northern series and you could cross territories and race in all of them, but each region needs their own final.

“We can find room if Racing NSW can find the prizemoney and I think it would be well received by the industry.”

For readers wanting to know more about the NSWPRA Picnic Champion Series, click here, and for full fields on today’s Coonamble card, click here.