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Murray Bridge: Heka Express win eases painful week for trainer Nichole Searle


A terrible week ended on a positive note for trainer Nichole Searle and the family stable after Heka Express won again at Murray Bridge.

A freak accident to trainer Nichole Searle who needed surgery after a jockey wheel landed on her foot at the family’s Port Lincoln stables last Wednesday, and a Covid-19 shutdown of its Gawler stables, proved a nightmare end and start to the New Year for the family.

But a glimmer of good news was provided to the team when the promising Heka Express ($6), trained by Searle, husband Gary and daughter Brianna Callanan, charged home to win a Benchmark 72 over 1000m at Murray Bridge on Saturday – minus the training combo and stablehands on course.

Nichole’s injury saw her spend three days in the Port Lincoln Hospital before a bed was available in Adelaide.

Transported by the Royal Flying Doctor Service on Friday morning to the Royal Adelaide Hospital Searle’s surgery was believed to have been successful, husband Gary said.

“It’s been some week, that’s for sure. Last Wednesday at the (Port Lincoln) stables we put a three-horse float in reverse, the jockey wheel gave way and landed on Nichole’s foot,’’ Gary said.

“Because there were no beds available in town (Adelaide) we had to wait until one was available and stay in Port Lincoln.

“She (Nichole) has had rotten luck. About 10 weeks ago she had a knee reconstruction on the other leg. By all accounts this (recent) operation went well.

“Then we had a track rider test positive for Covid which shut down our Gawler stables. So my brother Jeff and his wife Michelle drove from Bordertown to Murray Bridge to look after our horses which we had running on Saturday as we had none of our stable on course.’’

Heka Express made it two wins in a row, Ellis Wong riding a top race from the outside draw of 10.

“Heka Express is a nice horse for us. We paid $20,000 for it from one of those Inglis (online) sites and has now won something like $50,000 for us,’’ Gary said.

“Hopefully this will ease what has been an absolutely terrible time for us.’’

Jacob Opperman enjoyed the day with a race-to-race double, guiding the Patrick Payne-trained Bea Tempted ($3.80 fav) and the Kym Hann-prepared Our Destrier ($17) to victory, both winners carrying the number one saddlecloth and stabled at Ballarat.

Rising star Appalachian ($2.70 fav) showed his class and grit to win the 900m scamper after settling at the rear, giving followers some anxious moments.

But jockey Paul Gatt had the matter in control to ease out wide in the straight to win well. Gatt has won on the David Jolly-trained in three of its five victories.

Champagne Dreams ($5), after an impressive debut win in March, 2021, looks to be fulfilling some of that potential after a strong win in a Benchmark 62 over 1000m.

Well rated off the pace by Jake Toeroek the Wayne Francis/Glen Kent-trained three-year-old filly charged home to account for They Call Me Alvin and Hurtle to make it two wins on end and three victories from seven starts.

Ballarat trainer Henry Dwyer again showed he had the knack of placing his runners in the right metro races in South Australia when Kasami ($7) proved too strong in a maiden over 1000m.

Drawing barrier one, but sitting midfield, the Victorian proved too strong in the run home with Dom Tourneur on board.

Samesyn ($21) and hot favourite Stars The Limit ($1.55), which missed the kick, filled the placings.

Originally published as Murray Bridge: Heka Express win eases painful week for trainer Nichole Searle



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