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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


Image: Bradley Photos

THURSDAY: July 20, 2023: JASON Attard was riding a young horse he was breaking-in when his heart skipped a beat or two!

“I was on a breaker in the arena at home on the farm when I noticed a float pull up and thought ‘Oh no’,” he recalled today.

Attard’s wife Lucy Keegan-Attard had bought the horse – a Starspangledbanner yearling – sight unseen for $20,000 at the 2020 Magic Millions National yearling sale at the Gold Coast.

“Lucy had kept it quiet; I knew nothing about it,” he said.

“I told her it would be cheaper buying shoes and handbags.”

Now, Attard doesn’t think so any more, especially after that yearling, the now four-year-old Stars And Bars ($3.20 favorite) snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in a thrilling all-Hawkesbury finish to the Provincial Benchmark 68 Handicap (1300m) at Kembla Grange today.

After hitting the front and then looking certain to be beaten when overtaken, the gelding fought back doggedly under Rachel King’s urging to outgun Mitch and Desiree Kearney’s Lady Shenanigans ($10) and Peter Green’s Star Mission ($7).

It was the second win in an 11-start career – he has also been placed four times – and his current earnings stand at just over $71,000.

Stars And Bars’ victory on top of Ruby Flyer’s city breakthrough at Warwick Farm a day earlier capped a memorable season for the husband and wife trainers, with 14 wins to their credit.

Coincidentally, both horses shed their maiden status within a few days of each other earlier in the year.

Ruby Flyer easily won a Wyong Maiden (1350m) in late April, and Stars And Bars a 1300m Provincial Maiden at Newcastle on May 4.

Ruby Flyer has now won four of his last five starts, and Jason Attard feels Stars And Bars could well have matched his stablemate with better fortune.

“He has been unlucky in a few of his races, and his last six runs have produced two wins and three placings,” he said.

“And there was a lot of merit in his performance when he ran a close fifth at his previous start before today.

“We had given him a break of nearly a month between runs, and the 1000m was too short, but he ran very well.”

Stars And Bars’ tenacious Kembla win was greeted with cheers from abroad, as Attard’s wife Lucy is visiting family at home in the UK and watched the race on her phone with her mother Sandra, who is a part-owner of the gelding.

“Of course they were very excited,” Jason Attard said. “They were up early in the morning to watch Stars And Bars win.”

. Team Attard won’t run dual acceptor Knight in either race at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday as he drew poorly in both. Last year’s Hawkesbury stand-alone winner is on the comeback trail and instead will trial at Warwick Farm on Tuesday.

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