Shelton and Fitzgerald claim Inverell feature-race double

Mollie Fitzgerald and John Shelton hold the Inverell Cup after Cassia Lane’s win on Monday.

Veteran trainer John Shelton combined with rising star Mollie Fitzgerald to win both feature races at Inverell’s New Year’s Day meeting on Monday. 

Fitzgerald only took the two rides on the program and kicked off a big day when winning the Inverell Shorts (1050m) with Another Spirit ($7.50). 

After commencing well, Fitzgerald decided to take a sit behind the early speed battle before weaving a passage to the front and winning by 3.5 lengths. 

The three-kilogram claiming apprentice then got the run of the race on Cassia Lane ($6) in the Inverell Cup (1400m), sitting on the rail and one pair back before working strongly to the line to claim victory in the $45,000 feature.  

For Shelton – a proud Glen Innes product – The 2024 Inverell Cup was his second triumph in the event after Stephen Traecey rode the stable’s old warhorse, Karate, to victory in 2002.

“She has been a great little horse,” Shelton told NSW Country and Picnic Racing

“She has good owners, and well, isn’t she (Fitzgerald) a good little jockey.

“I love coming up and trying to win these races, and it’s a thrill to win both races today.”

Cassia Lane was stepping up from Benchmark 58 grade to an Open Handicap, but the five-year-old took it in her stride when beating home a good field.

“Everything was going against her, but she is just a great little filly that is racing really well at the moment,” Shelton said. 

The Grafton-based trainer was full of praise for Fitzgerald, with the apprentice unbeaten on Shelton’s horses.

“I’ve given her four rides, and she’s won the four of them,” Shelton said. 

“She’s won three on this mare, and that claim won’t last long.”

In terms of what is next for Cassia Lane, Shelton hinted that he might target his hometown cup.

“We’ll have to have a few beers and talk about that, but we might win the Glen Innes Cup yet,” Shelton laughed.

It’s all in the name

Like all good names, there’s generally a better story, and that’s the case with 2024 Inverell Cup winner Cassia Lane.

Owned by Therese and Phil Waghorn, the Worthy Cause mare is named after Cassia Lane in Woolgoolga after Therese sold her sister’s home.

“There’s a good story there,” Phil Waghorn told NSW Country and Picnic Racing. 

“She’s actually my wife’s horse, and she did a job for her sister and sold her house, and her sister said she was going to pay her, and Tina said, ‘No, I don’t want the money’, and said ‘I’m going to buy a racehorse if you pay me’

“That’s how it came about, and this is her, and she is named after Cassia Lane, where the house was sold”

The Waghorn’s were thrilled to score one of their biggest wins as owners. 

“It’s unbelievable; it means everything,” Waghorn said. 

“We’re just small-time owners in Grafton, and to win a race like this is a thrill.

“Plus, to do it with John is great; we’re good mates, and we’ll go and have a couple of beers most afternoons, and it’s just a great feeling.”