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Rookie trainer dreaming of breakthrough Ewan win

Ewan-Amateur-Turf-Club-facebook-19.jpgBy Jordan Gerrans

Told as a youngster that she would never be able to ride again following a sickening fall, rookie trainer Claire McCann is dreaming of capturing her maiden victory on Ewan’s historic first ever TAB race day.

A long-time track work rider and staff member for other trainers, the 44-year-old has trained in her own right for much of 2021 and has presented 24 gallopers to race day without yet breaking through.

The small McCann stable has started Sandy Toes and Amuthon in recent weeks, with both gallopers entered for the popular two-day Ewan Amateur Turf Club carnival this week.

Despite Sandy Toes only having the one career victory to her name, McCann has a fair opinion of the staying mare, nominating her for much higher graded races in recent weeks, including the Cairns Amateurs Cup, where the six-year-old has struggled to get a run.

The Bullet Train mare is an emergency for the 2021 Ewan Cup on Friday, which doubles as a Country Cups Challenge qualifier, as well as the Benchmark 50 Handicap earlier in the day over 1750 metres, with the trainer hopeful of getting a run in either of the events.

To take out a trainer's licence and ride her own work is an achievement for the single mum, following a bad fall as an 11-year-old.

“My right leg, when I was a kid, I was involved in a horse riding accident, where I fell off and I was dragged a long way and shattered my right leg,” McCann recalled.

“I broke three vertebraes in my back, I hurt all my ribs on my right side and punctured my lungs and punctured kidney – it was big.

“I was in hospital for about a year and then told that I would never ride again.

“Thanks to my parents perseverance I got back on a horse a year-and-a-half later and was competing again within two years.

“I do a lot of mentoring with other people when they have come off and had injuries.”

After she recovered from the disastrous incident, McCann would go on to compete in para events, riding in dressage, showjumping and eventing.

Sandy Toes has run well back in the field in her two NQ starts at Townsville and Cairns but put in a pair of encouraging efforts before relocating north, running third at Gatton and Gympie as she hit the line well on both occasions.

“She is a lovely little mare, she is very tiny and small,” McCann said.

“I am slowly bringing her back, Marcus Wilson had her and successfully campaigned her.

“She has come back in really nicely and this was the goal, get her into races like this…covering the distance really well.

“Her last run in South East Queensland at Gatton for me was really good, she came home really well and showed her ability.”

Sandy Toes

Ewan-Amateur-Turf-Club-facebook-18.jpgMcCann began her training journey on the Darling Downs before relocating to North Queensland, where she has put Sandy Shoes through some cross training to get her mind on the job come race day.

“She had a few behaviour issues, concentrating in the race and when it came down to getting interfered and if that happened, she would peal out the back,” she said.

“She did not have the confidence to make up ground again.

“I have taken her out to play polocrosse and things like that, pushed her around cattle too, so she got used to being bumped and jostled a bit.

“She has a lot more confidence on her feet now.”

The rookie trainer works for the local council in Charters Towers and says claiming her maiden victory at Ewan would be a special moment, a track just down the road from where her stable is based.

“I have not won a race yet but if you have a look at how many starts I have had, I have placed a lot so far,” she said.

“It would be really special if I could my first winner this weekend, it would be amazing for that little horse too.”

Stablemate Amuthon, who McCann has owned since he was a two-year-old, will go around on the second day of Ewan’s annual races in the Class 5 Handicap over 1000 metres.

Over the popular two-day carnival, Ewan will race as a TAB meeting on Friday and revert to a non-TAB race day on Saturday, allowing for different class horses to get a run over the 48 hours.

The $30,000 Ewan Cup is Friday’s feature event and will serve as a qualifier for this year’s Country Cups Challenge, with the winner going on to run at Doomben as part of the TAB Queensland Summer Racing Carnival in early December. 

Sky Racing experts Michael Charge and Tony Wode will participate in a tipping challenge on the first day of the Ewan carnival, with all proceeds going to the Queensland Off-The-Track Program and the National Jockeys Trust, with punters able to follow the tipping contest on Racing Queensland’s digital channels.