An old racing journalist, Doug Gorrel is no stranger to penning a story and describing the outstanding achievements in the Sport of Kings.
Those days are long gone, with Gorrel now the centre of those stories since training his first winner in 2016 when Liabilityadjuster triumphed at Cowra.
Since then, the Wagga trainer, initially based in Canberra, has progressed from a burgeoning star in the sport to an established and respected conditioner of winners, having prepared 119 career victories.
Enjoying his most productive season to date, Gorrel could be described as having a ‘breakout season’, kicking along at a career-best 16.7%-win rate while having 13 victories to his name in 2023/24.
In fact, he’s on course to train his most winners in a season, and he put it down to a talented group of gallopers, his hard-working team, and being based in Wagga.
“I do have a slightly better crop of horses,” Gorrel told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“The move to Wagga has been good, and we’re finding nice races and placing them right, and we were always trying to do that, but when we were training out of Canberra, it was hard to win around there, and really, it’s hard to win anywhere.
“Still, we love racing at Wagga. It’s a great track, and I do believe in home-ground advantage.
“We’ve got a good team of horses, good staff and riders, which is vital, and we’re ticking along alright, touch wood.”
With ten victories from his past 50 starters, Gorrel has recently enjoyed remarkable success on his home track.
In October, Dream Inherit won a Country Boosted Benchmark 58 Handicap (1400m), while in December, Military Manoeuver was too good in a Benchmark 50 Handicap (1675m), and Dream Inherit won again, this time in a Benchmark 66 Handicap (1800m).
Kicking off 2024 the right way, Gorrel landed a double on his home track on Tuesday, and it was two maidens getting their first wins.
Leading off a race-to-race double, the well-supported Kenyan Charm (Danny Beasley, $2.10) won on debut in the 1000m Country Boosted Maiden Handicap.
Showing plenty of ability, the three-year-old wasn’t missed by punters, putting nearly two lengths on the field and looking well above average when powering to the line.
“She had that trial at the end of last prep, and it was a nice trial; Jeff Penza rode her, and she was only beaten a couple of lengths hard-held, and they (the punters) must have thought she had come back well,” Gorrel said.
“Some of the smarties would have seen her win a jump-out at Wagga, and we went there quite confident.
“We had actually picked out the same race next meeting on Australia Day, but when the noms (nominations) looked a bit skinny for that race she won, I said, ‘Let’s drag her forward and give her a go a week and a half early, and she still did it quite well.”
A three-year-old Rubick filly, Gorrel has high hopes for Kenyan Charm.
“My riders have always liked this filly,” he said.
“We didn’t rush her because she needed time to mature, and she went a bit sore several times.
“We didn’t push through, and the owner was patient with her, and it’s paid dividends, and she’s had no niggles at all, and she is ready to race.”
Rounding out Gorrel’s double was Our Frankie, which was strong to the line in the Maiden Plate (1300m).
Having only her second start for the stable, Kayla Nisbet was in the saddle as the pair produced an eye-catching finish for a one-length victory.
“I think she can win a couple more,” Gorrel said.
“Kayla said the same when she jumped off, and she thinks there are a couple more wins in store, and she won really well.
“I did expect her to race well and went there quietly confident, but she still had a bit of work to do to get to where she was, but she had them well covered.”
While some excellent youngsters are coming through, Gorrel will target the 2024 Country Championships, with Asgarda set to go around in the Southern Districts qualifier at Albury on Sunday, February 18.
“We’re steering Asgarda that way,” Gorrel confirmed.
“She’ll resume in a trial at Wagga on Wednesday, January 31st, and depending on what she does there, that’ll determine our path, but she is a Benchmark 70 and should scrape in.”
For now, Gorrel will focus on his next assignment at Albury on Monday, with Sorry Sunshine (Mathew Cahill) set to contest the Benchmark 58 Handicap (1600m).