By 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.”