Race Meeting 10th August 2016

If a week is a long time in politics, it's also the case with driving premierships in harness racing.

Just ask Mat Rue.

A week ago, he was resigned to the fact that he'd be settling for silver in the Bathurst driving ranks this season, after Amanda Turnbull had caught and overtaken him in the premiership, with the finish line in sight.

She'd spotted him a lead of 21 wins by the time she returned to her home state in April, and while she racked up a few quaddies and then a perfect five just a fortnight ago, he'd endured a virtual drought, with just two wins on his home track in those four months.

But that was all overturned in a few short hours at Bathurst on Wednesday night. With Amanda competing away, in Breeders Crown heats in Kilmore, Mat Rue drove five winners to eat into her lead, level things up, then pull away to a two-win lead of his own.

He'd driven four winners on five occasions previously - twice at Menangle metropolitan meetings, a couple of times at Group One Feeds Paceway at Bathurst, and once at Dubbo - but this was his first-ever bag of five. And it couldn't have come at a more opportune time.

The Rue "high five" was as follows:

Hall In ($9.70, for Andrew Hall) in the C0/C1 Menangle Country Series heat, drawn outside the second row and settling at the tail of the field before producing a powerful sprint to get up right on the line.

Skirmish NZ ($1.30 favourite, for Peter Bullock), the three-year-old resuming from a lengthy break and leading throughout to out-tough his older C2/C4 rivals, earning praise from his driver for his gritty display.

Izzy Watt ($2.60 favourite) in the fast-class sprint, sitting behind the leader in a very fast first half, with Rue then making the right decision to come to the outside (rather than risk a delay in reaching the sprint lane ), before scoring in a driving finish.

Smooth Sailor ($3.30 favourite, for fiancée Gemma Hewitt ) in a 3YO sprint, again sitting behind the leader and taking the "outside"option, to score with authority, the third win for the Sportswriter gelding and the third individual winner for Gemma.

Major Flare ($1.40 favourite ) in a C0 maiden, working to the front from his outside gate and getting away with several soft quarters before dashing away on the bend for the night's easiest win, the perfect style for that fifth winner.

Rue trains only a small team of his own, so he was doubly pleased with his own training double, with Izzy Watt and Major Flare, the latter horse newly entrusted to him by Darren McCall who's enjoying a European vacation. Any sightings of the Griswalds, Darren?

Smooth Sailor is a newcomer also, sent to Gemma Hewitt by her cousin Dennis Picker, whose Bigga (near Crookwell ) training track was badly damaged by recent rains. This latest win will pay for some of the repairs.

Other winners at the meeting were Victoria Pass ($14.10, Bernie Hewitt) in a C0/C1 sprint, Monivae ($4.80, Chris Geary for Frank O'Sullivan) in the C2/C3 Country Series heat, and Not A Bad Move (Nathan Turnbull), on debut in 2YO class, the perfect start for the bargain-priced gelding bought out of a New Zealand trial.

Skirmish, with this seventh win for the season, cemented his lead in the Bathurst Horse of the Year and Juvenile Horse of the Year premierships, and Steve Turnbull is way ahead in the training premiership, but there will be enormous interest now in that drivers title, following Rue's effort on Wednesday.

With the drought over and confidence restored, he'll be keen to hang onto that lead over the final three meetings. His friend and rival is sure to be back in town, and the contest between them will be quite compelling.