Speedy Newcastle filly Cheers Joyce was not in trainer Alan Scorse’s good books in the lead-up to Saturday’s 900-metre Maiden Plate at Newcastle but all was forgiven as she cruised to victory by 3¼ lengths. Twenty minutes before the race, Scorse was saddling up Cheers Joyce in the race-day stalls before the filly trod on the popular trainer’s toes. Scorse was limping noticeably and obviously in pain in the mounting yard before the race. Cheers Joyce, only small in stature, was an $8 chance in the six-horse race but she won like an odds-on favourite. Quickly away from her inside barrier, the three-year-old outsped her rivals to the home turn. At the top of the straight, Cheers Joyce kicked away to lead by two lengths and the chasers were struggling. In the final 200 metres, she increased her margin to 3¼ lengths.
It was the filly’s fifth race start, and in her two starts this preparation she had indicated a win was not far off. Cheers Joyce was beaten half-a-length at Scone on December 30 and she was a close fifth at Taree last start, after racing in the worst part of the track in the straight. Scorse shares in the ownership of the winner with a group including Newcastle Jockey Club director Paul Leaming and the club’s doctor, Geoff Fowler.
The trainer was always confident that his filly had a good chance, despite her odds. “I disregarded the Taree run because she bogged down when heading into the home straight,” he said. “None of the winners that day were on the rail. But 900 metres is her go and she just jumps and runs. Also I believed the bigger track at Newcastle was more suitable, and she didn’t handle the home turn too well at Taree. I wasn’t too happy when she stood on my toes when I was putting the saddle on. The toes are badly bruised but the filly redeemed herself. It was a special day as I loved Cheers Joyce, as her mother, Wears Red Feathers, died when foaling her. It was the mare’s one and only foal. Wears Red Feathers won five races for me and they were all at Newcastle.”
Another Newcastle trainer, Kris Lees, had a mixed day, saddling up four favourites for a winner, a second, and third and a fourth. Nationality, the stable’s only Newcastle winner, made it two from two this preparation with a gutsy but narrow victory in the 1200 metre Class 2 Handicap. Lees was full of praise for the three-year-old. “He has done a good job to win a Class 2 in his next start after a maiden win,” he said. “The tempo was slow and he raced outside the leader. I would like to see him in a fast-run race, where he can sit back off the pace.” Lees also had a winner with High Opinion over 2000 metres at Rosehill.