The vibe in ‘the Gytrash Room’ – as Morphettville’s Leilani Room was temporarily renamed last weekend – was a roller-coaster of emotions on Everest day.
On arrival, most of the 180-odd attendees were bubbly, buoyant and beaming, in anticipation of what lay ahead.
As most racing fans know, the super sprinter from Adelaide has scores of owners, spread across individuals and syndicates. Most, it seemed, were at Morphettville last Saturday, save for the fortunate few who made it to Randwick.
Many of those inside the Gytrash Room had never met before, but nonetheless felt united in a common aspiration: willing the Adelaide horse to glory in the $15 million race. Like when strangers brandishing the same AFL club’s supporter gear sit near each other at an interstate game – immediately forming temporary bonds that expire at the final siren.
Early in the day the mood was decidedly casual, as friendship/syndicate groups gathered on their respective (round) tables, enjoying a few drinks and lunching together. Gytrash gear was strewn across the room, from ties to caps, to table and wall decorations, forming a sea of blue.
The general consensus was that whatever happened, Gytrash would surely be in the finish, and that Gordon Richards’ stable star deserved to be shorter in the market than Nature Strip, the latter’s butt comprehensively whipped by ‘G’ in Sydney previously.
The Gytrash gang was hopeful of a good showing by both Behemoth and Dollar for Dollar, and happy for the SA-trained trio to run the trifecta, provided Gytrash anchored the ticket.
The races start rolling on and the mood remained positive and effervescent… until race six at Randwick was run and won.
Then things changed.
The room’s collective heartbeat suddenly elevated.
“Next race, Luke,” one of Luke Charlton’s mates cheekily yelled across the table, knowing Luke had been a bundle of nerves all week.
A couple of drinks had done little to settle Luke, whose father, Simon, owns 10 per cent of Gytrash and was one of the aforementioned folks on site at Randwick.
Luke needed no reminding of the race-day scheduling, but as a kind of coping mechanism, turned to the grateful invitee next to him – yours truly – and launched into yet another re-run of why he couldn’t imagine the horse running poorly.
“You know what I mean?” he said, rounding out his race prediction – including detailed speed map – while looking for some reassurance.
“Yep, agree 100 per cent,” I replied. And at that moment, I truly believed – the overwhelming tsunami of Gytrash sentiment having washed away my Friday-night thoughts that Classique Legend and Haut Brion Her might be the pair to beat.
Ten minutes before the race, the room hit fever pitch; the buzz was palpable, electric. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife.
Think of those final two or three minutes before the Melbourne Cup every year, then imagine every person around you has backed the same horse.
It was like that.
Last-minute bets, budgets blown, confidence growing by the moment.
Channel 7 on hand to film the excitement.
Three minutes, two minutes, Gytrash loads, red light is on…
The gates open to cheers across the room, then a slight hush as focus turns to where Gytrash is positioned in the field.
This run for the money takes less than 70 seconds. The first 40 were full of expectation, the next 30 was when reality hit.
He wasn’t going to win.
Classique Legend had the tearaway – some used stronger post-race adjectives – leaders covered a long way out and Gytrash never looked a winning chance.
As they crossed the line the room sighed; a sigh laced with the knee-jerk reaction of disappointment.
Deflated. The only way to describe it.
Wait, did he bob up for third? Did he get it?
After a short delay, it was confirmed that Gytrash had nosed out his Goodwood conqueror Trekking for third. The placegetters flashed up on the screen.
Again, the room reacted as one. A cheer: muted, compared to when the gates opened, but a cheer nonetheless.
Then the chats started, right across the width and breadth of the Gytrash Room. Like someone flicked on a neon light saying ‘discuss’.
Reflections starting taking place.
Third, from where he was, is actually pretty damn good.
He ran as well as he could have.
Third in an Everest is something to be proud of.
We should be happy with that, not disappointed.
And within 10 minutes, that became the room temperature, almost to a man: proud in defeat, and satisfied. Conversations using different words, but all headed in the same direction.
It was a room reacting as one, all afternoon, and another illustration of the wonders of thoroughbred racing.
Luke Charlton (standing, right) with the rest of his Gytrash table at Morphettville last Saturday.