Courtesy of Barossa Herald - 29/09/15. QUALITY mare Okahu Bay, trained by Phillip Stokes, scored a brilliant all-the-way win in the Gawler and Barossa Jockey Club's $50,000 Schweppes Gawler Cup (1500m), at the Evanston racecourse last Sunday.
A $17 chance, Okahu Bay fought back after being headed to score a short half head win from the $2.50 favourite Rocket Commander, with Little Akie ($8) a length away third.
Stokes has a Gawler connection, as his parents Ron and Mary Stokes live in Gawler and do pre-training work and spelling of the trainer's team.
"I was raised on a cattle station outside Maree in the far north of South Australia, and might have only spent a month living in Gawler, but the town is the home of my parents," Stokes said.
"I actually considered scratching Okahu Bay because she had drawn gate 14, but after looking at the speed maps with Domenic (jockey Domenic Tourneur) we decided to run.
"She is a top mare and I didn't want her to have a gut buster and ruin her spring campaign."
Stokes said the Group Two $300,000 Matriarch Stakes (2000m) for mares at Flemington on Saturday, November 7, was the main target for Okahu Bay this preparation.
He said she may have only one more run before that event, and it could be the listed $100,000 Carlton Draught Murray Bridge Gold Cup (1600m) on Wednesday, October 14.
Okahu Bay began well on Sunday and Tourneur was able to get her to the front without too much effort, and rated the four-year-old mare beautifully.
The challengers began to appear around the home turn but the mare kept rolling And it was only the favourite Rocket Commander that really issued a challenge and at the 200 metre mark and appeared the likely winner, with a narrow advantage.
"I think Rocket Commander got a head to a long neck in front," Tourneur said.
"When my mare realised she had a challenger she refused to give in and really wanted to win, and on the line she had done enough to regain the lead.
"She is as very good mare and can improve further as the race was only her second back from a break."