SINCE it was staged for the first time in 1997, the annual Shirley Turnbull Memorial has always attracted quality fields and this year’s edition of the Bathurst Harness Racing Club’s feature is no different. It will feature a millionaire.
Former Bathurst resident John McCarthy will make the trip to the Bathurst Paceway on Thursday to contest the Shirley Turnbull Memorial (2520 metres) for the first time, the talented trainer-driver hinging his hopes on Washakie.
The now 10-year-old Badlands Hanover x Shoshoni Sunrise gelding boasts career earnings of $1,814,973, and will likely start as favourite to win the $45,000 Shirley Turnbull Memorial.
Having previously run his operation in Queensland, McCarthy was unable to return to Bathurst for the December 26 fast-class feature last year.
But now he is based in Cobbitty, he’s keen try his hand at his former home track.
“It is a good race so we are pretty keen to come and the prize money is getting better every year. Now we are living back here [in NSW] it makes it easier for us to come,” McCarthy said.
“It’s a race I would’ve liked to have competed in before because it is a pretty big race, but I just lived too far away. I’d really like to win this race too because I know the Turnbulls.
“My kids grew up with the Turnbulls, so I’ve known them for a fairly long time. Mrs Turnbull was a very nice lady so I want to come for her race and my dad’s memorial [Ray McCarthy] is on the same night as well, so I am bringing horses for that too.”
Though Thursday will be McCarthy’s maiden tilt at the memorial, he knows the rest of the trainers and drivers participating will be just as hungry for success.
He believes Washakie’s form is red-hot and he’s confident he will perform well.
He began the month by taking out the Group 1 Treuer Memorial for the fifth consecutive time and last Thursday night at Penrith he produced a brave front-running performance before being narrowly beaten by Scandalman.
The successes in the Treuer on a Bankstown track which is similar to the Bathurst Paceway and over a similar distance (2540m) to the Shirley Turnbull Memorial are other reasons for McCarthy to feel positive.
“He pulled up really good after that run at Penrith, he’s actually surprising for his age. It was a good run and he did a fair bit of work,” McCarthy said.
“Scandalman is a really good horse, he got a sit behind and just got him [Washakie] on the line. He’ll be coming to Bathurst too for sure.
“Bankstown is like Bathurst, he likes that size track and that distance is a very good one for him, I think the 2520 metres is his best distance.”