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  • John Curtis


SATURDAY: December 11, 2021: HEZA Gentleman, the “King of Canterbury Nights”, has now won three in a row in the current series – and his overall metropolitan tally stands at five.

But last night’s victory was clearly the most special.

“That meant a lot to us,” Mitchell Kearney, who trains in partnership with his wife Desiree at Hawkesbury, said this morning, with understandable emotion in his voice.

“It is eight years today since our mother Sue passed away from motor neurone disease.

“She was only 52.

“Heza Gentleman races in the white and purple colours with a purple frangipani, which was Mum’s favourite flower.”

Making Heza Gentleman’s hat-trick performance all the more special was that Kearney’s father Brian, a part-owner of the resilient gelding, was on course to watch his horse win.

“This was the first time Dad has been at the track to see Heza Gentleman win a race in town,” Mitch Kearney said.

Not only is the co-trainer a part-owner with his father, but also brother Shane (who helps out at the stables whenever possible) figures in the large syndicate, which includes members of the St Clair Comets Rugby League Club (which competes in the Penrith Juniors competition) and some friends from Tumut.

“Most of the owners were in Heza Gentleman’s dam Silk Spun,” Kearney explained.

“She was an ex-Waratah Thoroughbreds mare, and we bought her for $5000 after she had trialled on quite a few occasions but hadn’t raced.”

Silk Spun was Kearney’s first winner, at Hawkesbury in July 2014, when training in his own right.

That was on a “Firm 2” surface, yet ironically her son has proved himself an accomplished wet tracker.

Heza Gentleman was Silk Spun’s first foal, and she was sold to West Australian interests after her second foal Suzie’s Comet, who was retired after finishing last at both her starts.

Heza Gentleman ($2.30 favorite) won the $80,000 Evening Star (1550m Benchmark 78 Handicap) last night – and had to earn it before lifting his earnings to nearly $210,000.

Perhaps there was some divine help, as the Nicconi five-year-old had to do some work early to take up the running, then was challenged and headed in the back straight at the 800m when Banger’s rider Tommy Berry made a quick move, not wanting the eventual winner to dictate terms.

Heza Gentleman regained the lead at the 200m and fought bravely to stave off determined late bursts from Monegal ($12) and Weekend Affair ($41) to hang on in a tense finish.

“They did everything they could to beat him,” Kearney said.

“Full credit to the horse and his apprentice rider Tyler Schiller, who has done a great job winning all three recent races on him at the Canterbury night meetings.”

Team Kearney, though, isn’t in a hurry to chase four in a row at the Canterbury night session.

“Last night’s race took a lot out of him,” Kearney said.

“He has earned a break in the paddock to have a rest and eat some grass for 10 days or so.

“Then we’ll have a look and see where we go next with him.”

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