It was a first for Seymour-based trainer Chris Nash.
There was a problem however; it was also a first for Caulfield-based trainer Brendan McCarthy.
But for Nash it was more than one first — it was also the first dead heat of his career.
And it’s not as if he hasn’t been around the traps — he started training in South Australia, made the move to the Northern Territory and has since relocated to Mangalore where he has set up stables with his father-in-law Steve Brown.
But it took until the $35,000 Happy 70th Joe Kelly over 975 m on September 11, 2020, for him to get caught up in a race where he got the winner’s prizemoney as well as the prizemoney for second place.
Nash was still shaking his head at the weekend when explaining the only reason his six-year-old gelding The Mayor was in a photo finish with McCarthy’s Kosowski was because COVID-19 scrapped the annual Nash-Brown expedition back to Darwin for its winter racing season — highlighted by the Darwin Cup and a high-profile sprint.
“We usually go up there for three months from the end of every May, with the season in the NT starting in June, with the Darwin Cup held in August — and I bought this horse with the big sprint there in mind — and as coronavirus took care of that he got to run at Swan Hill instead,” Nash said.
“It’s also much better weather up there in winter, we sort of follow the sun as well as the Darwin carnival.''
While based in Darwin for six years Nash and Brown had between 20 and 30 horses in work at any given time and would normally take as many as eight horses back up there for the winter.
“I picked up The Mayor six months ago for the Darwin trip and he has been a good horse to train and race,” he said.
But not so good the self-confessed glass half empty Nash said he was in no doubt when the judges saw the photo; his horse would be named second.
The Mayor started nominal favourite at $5.50 in an open betting race, with Kosowski in double figures for the sprinting dash for the cash.
“I spoke to Harry (jockey Harry Coffey) after the race and said he simply wasn’t sure — he said he had his head down and was riding hard when they hit the line,” Nash said.
When the 12-horse field turned into the Swan Hill straight the course commentator described it as the charge of the Light Brigade with virtually every horse spread across the field in an even line — but The Mayor was just a bit behind that pace and Coffey had to wait until the 200 m mark to get clear and then mowed down the bolter.
“It’s always good to have Harry on board, he is a Swan Hill local and knows this track like the back of his hand, and it was a good ride to catch the leader on the line,” Nash said.
“While you always like to win, in the end I was happy for the dead heat because it was a bonus after thinking we had missed out.”
Nash said next up for his latest winner would be a 955 m dash at Moonee Valley — where he is hoping for a favourable draw to deal with that track’s tight turn into the home straight.
“This is a horse that has had absolutely no luck with barriers, so I think he is a bit overdue,” he said.
“He is a good horse to train and is bred for speed. He might go out as far as 2000 m but I am more focused on the 1000-1400.
“He has pulled up in great shape after Swan Hill, is eating well and showing no signs of tiredness, so with the good draw he might have a good chance.”