Toowoomba apprentice Alannah Fancourt received an early birthday present winning the $50,000 South Grafton Cup on Sunday, July 8 aboard Carry Me Bluey for her master Norm Hilton.
One day shy of her twentieth birthday, the first year apprentice rode a near perfect race on Carry Me Bluey, coming from the tail of the field to win comprehensively.
"It was amazing!" Fancourt said. "I knew the horse needed to be given time to settle from the jump, then he needed clear galloping room in the straight and on form I thought he would be too good for them.
"Everything worked out perfectly and when I went across that finishing line, it was the biggest thrill of my career."
Fancourt made a huge sacrifice just to make it to Grafton for the ride. On Saturday she flew from Toowoomba to Charleville, where she rode Regal Prince to victory in the class six plate, then drove seven and half hours back to Toowoomba arriving home near midnight.
Sunday morning at 7am she was back on the road for the five and a half hour trek from Toowoomba to Grafton.
"When my manager rang me saying we could ride Bluey, I was like wow I don't know how I'll get there but I'll be there, I'll find a way.
"It was tiring, I'm not going to lie, but trust me it was all well worth it and I'd do it again anytime."
It was also a great show of faith in trainer Norm Hilton to trust a first year apprentice with the ride in one of Grafton's biggest races of the year.
"I've always had a huge wrap on Lani as a rider, you only have to look at what she's already achieved, in just 16 weeks she's ridden 23 winners including two quartets, that's extraordinary," Hilton said.
"We knew Bluey would get plenty of weight, so I thought who better than Lani.
"I was thrilled for her, she just followed the instructions to the letter, I was so happy with both her and the horse."
Fancourt was the toast of Grafton following her big win, which was her first TAB meeting winner and the 23rd of her career.
"The well-wishers from Grafton trainers and the public was overwhelming and I want to say a big thank you to everyone who congratulated me, I'll never forget my first ride at Grafton."
To add the icing on the cake Carry Me Bluey's victory came one day shy of her twentieth birthday.
"It was the best birthday present I could ever ask for."
RACING Queensland web news – July 10
Photo by Trackside photography