As the curtain comes down on Ladbrokes Friday Night Lights tonight, it is the perfect time to reflect on a season of highlights and showcase the stars who have shone brightly under lights at The Valley.
We’ve seen 128 races run in Season 22 of night racing, where superstars have come to the fore and the next generation has risen to the top, in the famous amphitheatre The Valley is renowned for.
Let’s Celebrate our Top 5 moments of the 2018/19 night racing season:
5 – Write off the series
It’s been a nervous 13 heats for trainer Logan McGill since Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes night, but if last year taught us anything, he shouldn’t get too comfortable. In the final heat of last year’s Ladbrokes 55 Second Challenge, Sunday Escape clocked the quickest time to steal the $55,000 cheque for trainer Andrew Murray. McGill’s Written Choice clocked a sizzling 54.77 in the third quickest heat in history and hasn’t returned throughout the season to defend his spot as clubhouse leader. Can he remain on the top of the podium tonight?
4 - Embrace Prebble – he’s back in a big way
Brett Prebble certainly made people stand up and take notice after his masterful ride aboard Embrace Me in the Crown Resorts Typhoon Tracy Stakes. Danny O’Brien’s filly, by former stable star Shamexpress, seemed to be in a near impossible position when straightening for home, but Prebble’s jaw dropping ride saw him thread the needle and announce himself back on the Australian stage. Embrace Me will be out to enhance her impressive Valley CV (three wins from four starts) when she tackles the Keogh Homes William Reid Stakes this evening.
3 - Bowman smashes it out of the park
Hugh Bowman became the first rider to win the Manikato Stakes-Cox Plate double since the Ladbrokes Cox Plate Carnival was first introduced in 2012. Bowman’s magic touch saw him produce his signature ‘she’s apples’ salute 24 hours earlier than most would have anticipated, when the iron horse Japanese born sprinter took out Australia’s richest race under lights in thrilling fashion over the Aidan O’Brien trained Spirit of Valor.
2 – Victoria’s Viddora victorious
Viddora got her redemption in the Charter Keck Cramer Moir Stakes from 12 months earlier when she narrowly missed out to She Will Reign. Lloyd Kennewell described it as the best moment of his training career, only months after he and fellow South Australian based jockey Joe Bowditch made the bold move to Victoria. The six-year-old strode into the race with purpose and laid claim to her second Group 1 triumph.
1 – Chautauqua bows out… on his terms
It wasn’t the fairytale resurrection of the superstar’s career, but upon reflection a fitting send-off of a champion. The Grey Flash didn’t do things by halves and certainly didn’t follow the script – he went out on his terms in a blaze of glory at a specially organised barrier trial on AFL Grand Final Eve. The massive crowd was there to see him and he knew it and he turned on a show that only he could. Even amongst the disappointment, the crowd didn’t hold a grudge, but instead give him a victory lap down the straight usually reserved for that of Group 1 winner. That he was at The Valley and so much more.