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  • John Curtis


SUNDAY: November 15, 2020: TALK about keeping it in the family!

Claire Lever will long savour her breakthrough winner as a trainer at the Snake Gully Cup meeting at Gundagai last Friday – with only her third starter.

The former successful jockey not only put the finishing touches to well-supported Grace Bay for her first-up victory in the Class 1 Handicap (1100m), she races the lightly-raced mare with her mother Bernadette, her jockey husband Chad was in the saddle and her trainer father Richard was the “brains trust” behind the coup.

“Dad actually picked this race out and suggested we should have a go at it,” Claire Lever said today.

“I hadn’t even thought about Gundagai, but Dad noticed the race in the calendar and recommended it as a suitable option.

“We put the blinkers on Grace Bay, and got the result we were looking for.

“Dad also took over strapping the mare after the race when the sponsor invited me for a celebratory drink.”

Lever (nee Nutman) tallied 119 winners during her riding career, and will never forget the first of those; coincidentally also a Class 1 Handicap, but over 1200m, on her home track at Hawkesbury on October 25, 2012.

She rode the Garry Frazer trained Only Money, who was the rank outsider of the five-horse field at $17.

“Both my first win as a jockey eight years ago, and my first as a trainer were obviously special,” Lever said.

“But to win that race at Gundagai on Friday with all the family involved was extra special.

“Dad still trains a couple of horses, and we all help each other out. We couldn’t do it otherwise.

“That made the Gundagai win so much more rewarding.”

Richard and Bernadette Nutman called into the Karaka yearling sale in 2018 whilst holidaying in New Zealand – and left with two additions, both “girls”, to the stable.

They were a Per Incanto filly (named Grace Bay after one of the most popular beach destinations in the world in the Caribbean), and a Jimmy Choux filly (named Choosday Nights) who has raced only twice and is now back in work with Lever.

After pulling down the curtain on her riding career in June, 2018, it was no surprise that the young Hawkesbury horsewoman continued her involvement in racing by helping out her father and subsequently took out her training licence only a few months ago.

“I’ve always had a great passion for horses,” Lever said. “I was never going to do anything else away from racing.

“I really enjoy all the process involved, such as going to the sales, educating the horses and getting them ready to race.

“When it all comes together and you win, as we did at Gundagai, it’s pretty special.”

Lever’s husband Chad called on all his experience to put the icing on the family cake last Friday.

He always had the well-backed Grace Bay ($3.50) perfectly poised behind the leaders, then had to wait patiently for a gap to appear on straightening.

When it did, the now four-year-old mare, having only her fifth start (she won at Narromine in March for Richard Nutman when also resuming), burst through and quickly put the issue beyond doubt, comfortably defeating Fat Gecko ($10) and Nuremburg Castle ($2.90 favorite).

The Nutman name has long been held in high esteem in racing, especially at Hawkesbury, and it’s all go with the family each morning at the stable the two trainers share together.

“I’ve got six horses in work at present, with another three to come in this week, and Dad has three in work,” Claire Lever said.

“Hopefully, there are more good times ahead for us.”

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