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It’s the ‘vibe’: VRC pleased with twilight turnout

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Horse Racing: Alabama Express upstaged his older rivals to win the Group 1 CF Orr Stakes at Caulfield.

Jockey Ben Melham rides Chicago Cub to victory in race five at Flemington.Source:Getty Images

While it was confusing watching the races with horses racing in different colours, and the banter between the coaches and their jockeys approached vaudeville at times Rapid Racing and the inaugural city-country jockey challenge was given a tick by racing officials.

The wash-up from the day from Victoria Racing Club and Racing Victoria was that it was a worthwhile experiment which would benefit from some tweaks.

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VRC chairman Neil Wilson said it was worthwhile trying a new concept.

“The vibe on course was great with lots of families and younger people,” Wilson said.

VRC Racing Manager Leigh Jordan said the attendance of 4092 was pleasing for a Sunday twilight meeting.

“I think the team concept has worked well. Little things here and there we might tweak. It’s given us something to build on. We’ll sit down and examine the day.”

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Racing Victoria chief executive Giles Thompson said there was a great atmosphere on course.

“If you don’t try new things you won’t go forward and I congratulate the VRC on this initiative. It’s not going to be perfect in year one but little tweaks can be made,” Thompson said.

The coaches of the jockeys’ teams Denis Pagan (City) and Liam Pickering (Country) hammed it up on screen for Racing.com with pep talks before the meeting, then another one after three races and then one in the jockeys’ room before the last race.

The jockeys did something Pagan had never experienced before as a coach though as they were laughing and smirking as he addressed them before the last race.

On the serious side the day began with three country jockeys winning which were Dean Holland (Aquagirl), Chassis (Jarrod Fry) and then Jason Maskiell (Excess Funds) and it meant something to them.

Jockey Ben Melham rides Chicago Cub to victory in race five at Flemington.

Jockey Ben Melham rides Chicago Cub to victory in race five at Flemington.Source:Getty Images

They all said they wanted to grasp their opportunity in the city.

It was 30 year-old Holland’s first city winner for the season when he won on Aquagirl.

The second race went to Jarrod Fry and it was his second city winner for the season.

Jason Maskiell then rode his third city winner for the season and he said he was determined to make the most of his opportunity.

The former champion Tasmanian jockey preferred to ride at Flemington in preference to riding at Elwick on Hobart Cup Day.

Maskiell gave up a winning ride in the feature $150,000 Bow Mistress Stakes on Zargos.

He also had the chance to ride Hellova Street, who finished second in the $100,000 Thomas Lyons Stakes.

Jockey Craig Williams and Metro coach Denis Pagan at Flemington’s Rapid Racing event.

Jockey Craig Williams and Metro coach Denis Pagan at Flemington’s Rapid Racing event.Source:AAP

Maskiell said it was more important for him to ride a winner at Flemington even though the richest race on the program was $50,000.

“It was a good opportunity to ride for bigger Melbourne stables and it’s important that I get my name out there again and hopefully impress the bigger stables.”

The City team then won the last four races with Mark Zahra (Explicitly), Ben Melham (Chicago Cub), Luke Currie (Proper Rogue) and then Craig Williams (Delusions) getting them home to win the challenge.

Williams said he and his teammates enjoyed the day.

“To be honest we were a bit flat as this was the third city meeting in a row but from the moment Denis walked into our rooms he lifted our spirits and we really embraced the concept. The competition and the camaraderie were great.”

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