CLEAR WINNER: Collar, ridden by Tegan Harrison, takes out the $50,000 Ballina Cup yesterday.
CLEAR WINNER: Collar, ridden by Tegan Harrison, takes out the $50,000 Ballina Cup yesterday. Mireille Merlet

Collar's Ballina Cup coup after trainer's learning curve

LAST year Cessnock trainer Jeremy Sylvester ran second in the Slipway Hotel Ballina Cup with Reunite in the trainer's first attempt at the race, and he says he learned a valuable lesson.

Yesterday Sylvester returned with Collar and last year's learning curve was put to good use when the seven-year-old, ridden by leading Brisbane jockey Tegan Harrison, kicked away before the turn to win easily.

"Reunite was a horse that liked to get back and I discovered that was not the sort of horse you needed to win a Ballina Cup," Sylvester said. "You needed a horse that could sit up on the pace and Collar is that sort of horse.

"It has been in the back of my mind since last year to come back and try to win this race."

It was Harrison's first win in the cup and she was so sure Collar was the horse to give her that win she chased the ride.

"I ride a lot of Jeremy's horses when he takes them to Brisbane and when I saw Collar in the cup I rang and begged for the ride," Harrison said.

"The race worked out perfectly."

Harrison had Collar back in fourth place early, started edging forward from the 800m, and had established a clear lead before the turn.

Collar, the $4.20 favourite, went on with the job to win by two-and-three-quarter lengths from Hard Ticker ($5), which came from sixth, and Avalanches ($9) a further short half head away third.

Sylvester will consider running Collar in the Lismore Cup, a race he won last year with Uno Five.

"Uno Five has had a couple of runs back from a spell and he is the horse I have been getting ready for Lismore," Sylvester said.

"However, if Collar pulls up well I might bring him as well."

Sylvester had intended to have two runners in the Ballina Cup but had to scratch the top weight, Youthful King, when he developed a hoof abscess.

Collar is a family horse, raced by the trainer, his wife Caroline and their children Jack and Lucy.

Sylvester bought Collar at a tried horse sale on the Gold Coast in what became the deal of a lifetime.

"I paid $14,000 but he failed a scope and they told me I could pull out of the sale," Sylvester said.

"I offered $4000 for him and they said I could have him for five.

"I had the operation done on his throat and have won about $180,000 with him, and I think there are more wins in store for him."

That was the second leg of a winning treble for Harrison.


RAIN A DISAPPOINTMENT

SHOWERS throughout the afternoon reduced the Ballina Cup race day crowd to something equivalent to last year but club officials are convinced the move from Friday back to Thursday was the right one.

"The rain has cost us about 1000 people," Ballina Jockey Club general manager Matthew Bertram said.

"However, interest in this year's cup far exceeded last year.

"Our pre-sales were way up while bookings for marquees more than doubled.

"It is disappointing the rain came but it was still a highly successful day.

"There was a great mood and everyone I spoke to was enjoying themselves."