CODI Rauchenberger will remember her first night at the Bathurst Paceway for being thrown from the gig, but on Saturday she picked up a much better memory.
The young driver took out the annual Bathurst RSL Soldiers Saddle Final (1,730 metres) with Smooth Sailor in an exciting dash to the line.
Having previously driven for James Rattray, Rauchenberger is now working for Bigga trainer Dennis Picker.
It was Picker who she sat in the gig for on Saturday in the $15,900 final, with the trainer taking the job aboard stablemate Elle Yeah.
Though Smooth Sailor was a $12.30 prospect and drew the tricky 10 gate, Picker felt the six-year-old was a hot chance.
“They hadn’t been far away in either of their heats and semis and having to do a bit of work too. I don’t think either of them got a [good] draw throughout the whole series, we were drawn out the back each time,” he said.
“Smooth Sailor, that old horse just really seems to be on his game at the moment, but it’s probably just taken Elle Yeah a little while to get back to where she was.
“She’s a good doing mare and it’s taking her awhile to get back to her best, but I thought he was 110 percent tonight.”
As it panned out, Picker’s opinion was spot on.
When the green light was given, it was My Secret Beach ($7.10) who flew out from gate four and managed to take the lead.
Bernie Hewitt’s $1.70 favourite Scarlett Babe, who had won both her heat and semi-final in impressive fashion, sat second in the trail while Nathan Turnbull was quick to guide Uncle Ryan into the death seat.
Behind them Rauchenberger settled Smooth Sailor one out and three back.
It was with some 500m to go, as Uncle Ryan continued to push My Secret Beach, that Rauchenberger made the decision to peel out.
She guided her runner three-wide and was pushed four-wide through the bend as others staked their claim.
Charging down the inside, Hewitt’s favourite hit the lead with 100m to go, but Smooth Sailor kept coming and snatched the win by a half head in a 1:55.2 mile rate.
Rauchenberger was delighted to have got the win, giving her a fond memory of Bathurst to make up for her fall on October 24 in a heat of the Star Trek Series when driving Troublesome Dave.
“I had a fall here a few weeks ago, so yeah, it was better than that,” she laughed.
“He’s [Smooth Sailor] an awesome horse to drive.
“He did it last week, the exact same thing. He went good then but was a run short last week, so I was just hoping that he’d be able to do tonight.
“It was not until we got halfway down the straight I thought he was a chance. Bernie and I looked at each other and were like ‘Who got it?’. I said I didn’t know.”
Picker crossed the line in fifth with Elle Yeah and though he initially was unsure who won, was delighted when Smooth Sailor got the nod.
“It’s always hard to win a race in Bathurst,” Picker said. “He’s [Hewitt] my old coach, so it’s nice to get one back on him.
“Codi has been at home for about six weeks and has been doing a great job, she’s driven two winners for us this week already. With her claim it’s good because we’ve got a few older horses she can jump on.”