Connections of Hi Stranger after winning the bet365 Kilmore Cup at Kilmore Racecourse on November 21, 2021 in Kilmore, Australia. (Brett Holburt/Racing Photos)

By Colin MacGillivray and ‘Pegs’

KILMORE Racing Club officials were thrilled with the return of crowds to Sunday’s Kilmore Cup, with nearly 3000 patrons passing through the gates.

Club chief executive Ben Murphy said the crowd had exceeded expectations and was well behaved throughout the day.

“Having 3000 was a best-case scenario. We thought we might get 2000 or 2500, so to get more than that was awesome. We’re really happy with the crowd,” he said.

“We had planned for rain earlier in the week and that didn’t come, which was great. The weather was good and it was a good day of racing.

“Our takeaway was that everyone seemed really happy. It was just good to have crowds back on the racecourse.

“We weren’t sure whether people would rush back to the races, but what we’ve seen is if we put on a good event, people are happy to come.”

Mr Murphy said the on-track action had kept all 3000 racegoers entertained.

Bendigo galloper Hi Stranger, paying $5.50, took out the feature race – the $160,000 bet365 Kilmore Cup.

With five city wins already on his CV, the Shane Fliedner trained five-year-old gelded son of Zoffany and Luxury Suite was impressive in the 1600-metre event.

The gelding, ridden by Damien Thornton, defeated $2.70 favourite Imperial Lad in a stirring finish by three quarters of a length, with Tibetan, $8, a short half-head away in third.

“He’s a really good horse,” Fliedner said after the win.

“He’s not over big but he’s determined and if he gets things fall his way he’s never far away.”

Fliedner said he would consider the Group 2 Villiers Stakes at Randwick on December 11, worth $750,000, for Hi Stranger’s next start.

The gelding, a $50,000 purchase by Fliedner at the 2018 Magic Millions Adelaide Yearling Sale for himself and long-time stable clients, has now won eight races with 10 minor placings from 34 starts, accruing $671,300 in prizemoney.

Mr Murphy said he was also pleased to see some local success on the track during the day.

Kilmore trainers Cathleen Wilson and Tony Chibnall notched victories with four-year-old geldings Jack Of It and Storm’s Colours in races three and six respectively.

“To have two local winners was awesome – Storm’s Colours for Tony Chibnall and Jack Of It For Catherine Wilson – added a nice local flavour to things as well,” Mr Murphy said.

“To think that we had two local horses trained in Kilmore win and one run second was really pleasing.

“We were so happy with the response from the community. We know it was a really busy weekend, so to think that they still wanted to come along was great.”

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