THERE was a tear in the eye of trainer Kerry McDowell on Wednesday night after Skye Mary Mac took out the opening Gold Tiara Heat, her emotion evident after enduring a challenging build up to the Bathurst carnival.
The team of training duo Kerry and Dean McDowell had to be evacuated from their Mulgoa stable during the recent flood crisis, a situation Kerry described as "pretty full on and a bit scary at times".
"Our whole barn, 85 percent of our property was under," she said.
"We got all our horses to safety, that was number one. Emilio Rosati, he lives like five minutes drive from us and he gladly opened his yards and everything and let us stay there with the horses, so we were very fortunate."
As well as having to relocate their team, the wet conditions meant Skye Mary Mac had not made her race debut prior to lining up in the first of five 1,730 metres qualifying heats at the Bathurst Paceway.
While the McDowells knew she was capable of qualifying for the Group 1, $110,000 final for two-year-old fillies, they were not entirely sure what to expect.
But with Lleyton Green in the gig, Skye Mary Mac ($2.60) found the lead from barrier one and went on to an all the way win.
Green pinched a 33.2 seconds split for the second quarter on the Bettors Delight x Glenferrie EJ filly to set up a sprint finish and that's how it played out.
After being challenged on her outside by Saveeon through the final bend, down the home straight $2.40 favourite Eve Crocker - who had travelled on Skye Mary Mac's back - unleashed down the sprint lane.
It looked as if Skye Mary Mac would be run down, but she held on in a 27.7 final quarter to win by a half neck over Eve Crocker. It ensured her place in the final.
"It was not the ideal build up for a two-year-old, especially going into her first race start," Kerry McDowell said.
"We had a number of things we wanted to try with her a couple of times, but that went downhill because of the weather. But tonight, she was amazing.
"We knew she had a motor and could perform, we were just hoping she would get everything right.
"We know she has got a couple of gears there, but it's always different on race night, under lights, under pressure with other horses, all the excitement and build up and you just hope they can keep doing the right thing. Down the straight we thought she might be headed, but she actually fought back.
"Standardbreds are such a hearty animal, they sort of cop whatever comes their way and they can put it all together."
The win means McDowell is a chance of winning the Gold Tiara for the second time, having taken out the 2019 edition with Michelle Lee Mac.
GOLD TIARA HEAT WINNERS: Skye Mary Mac (Kerry and Dean McDowell), Jewel Melody (Bernie Hewitt), Treasure Stride (Russell Jack), Betting Jewel (Bernie Hewitt), Miss Exclusive (Mat Rue).
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