REIGNING Hobart Cup winner Hurdy Gurdy Man enjoyed a return to form at Murtoa Racecourse on Saturday, storming home to win the $25,000 K. and J. Baker Murtoa Cup.
The Darren Weir-trained six-year-old bolted towards the finish line with 100 metres to go, winning by half a length over early race leader Orientaped.
Bill Cerchi-trained Diamonds at Noon rounded out the placings in the 2050-metre feature.
Murtoa-Marma Racing Club president David Delahunty said Hurdy Gurdy Man ran an outstanding race.
“It’s fantastic to have a horse of that quality run on our track,” he said.
“The owners didn’t know if they were going to retire him but Darren said he was still right, so they persisted.”
Delahunty said Hurdy Gurdy Man’s form had been ordinary in his past two runs back from a lengthy spell.
“The real horse turned up on Saturday,” he said. “It was a great race to watch.”
The day’s highlight came early for the racing club committee, with Grand Schiller saluting in race two, a 1200-metre maiden.
Grand Schiller is trained by the club’s racing director Majella Ballantine and is owned by committee members.
“He drew a wide barrier, so we weren’t really sure how he was going to go,” Mr Delahunty said.
“He jumped beautifully and got to the front quite easily.
“Majella has done a major training feat.
“It was his first race since she took him over. She’s done a lot of work with him to get him to this stage.
“The whole committee was so excited. There’s a few people who have never been in on a horse before, so it was pretty big for them.”
Other racing highlights included doubles for leading trainers Peter Moody and Weir.
Jockeys Jason Benbow and Jason Maskiel also enjoyed doubles, while Stawell father-daughter training combination Terry and Karina O’Sullivan scored a win in race seven with Audacity.
Mr Delahunty said patrons were treated to a great day of racing.
“It’s the biggest cup meeting we’ve had for many years,” he said.
“We’re not sure of the figures yet, but all the bar trade and everything for the day was up.
“If every meeting was like that we’d be more than happy.”
Mr Delahunty said it was great to see many of the town’s attractions showcased throughout Murtoa’s Big Weekend.
“At the Railway Hotel afterwards it was like it was back in the old days after the New Year races. There were people everywhere,” he said.
“There were a lot of people in town and from a racing perspective we couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
He said the club was looking forward to its next meeting on New Year’s Day.
“Hopefully people will come back and support us again and enjoy another great day of racing,” he said.