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March 4, 2022

By Ray Thomas – Daily Telegraph

BRAE Sokolski — the senior owner of Hinged — has donated the Group 1 Surround Stakes trophy, valued at more than $3000, to the Australian Turf Club track staff for their preparation of a rain-sodden Royal Randwick course proper last Saturday.

Sokolksi — also part-owner of champion mare Verry Elleegant who won the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes last Saturday — said he made the decision to donate Hinged’s Surround Stakes trophy as an acknowledgment of the efforts of Randwick track staff.

“I saw Nevesh and Michael immediately after the Surround Stakes and expressed my gratitude that they were able to run the meeting last Saturday,’’ Sokolksi said. “Then I made the decision to donate the trophy because they (track staff) deserve it.’’

The owner’s gesture was described by the ATC’s general manager of racecourses, Nevesh Ramdhani, as the “greatest recognition a track manager and his team could receive”. “It is special moment … and it is something that I have not  experienced in my 20-year career,’’ Ramdhani said.

“And it is an honour for the team to be recognised in this way. “Michael Wood (Royal Randwick track manager) and his staff have done a great job managing and improving the Randwick track in the last couple of years.’’

Racetrack staff are a bit like NRL referees — if they do a good job, no one notices, but if anything goes wrong, they receive a torrent of criticism. But Ramdhani and Wood backed their judgment and the confidence they had in the Randwick course proper last Saturday by declaring the track safe for racing when most expected the meeting to be called off.

The ATC track team faces a similar dilemma this Saturday for the Randwick Guineas meeting as Sydney’s big wet continues, and the Royal Randwick course proper already rated in the heavy 10 range.

Sokolski also penned a hand written letter to ATC chief executive Jamie Barkley where he praised the club’s track staff and their preparation of the Randwick course proper last weekend. “In racing the plaudits and glory tend to be the sole preserve of the trainers, jockeys and owners,’’ Sokolski wrote.

“On Saturday, none of us had the right to race, let alone win Group 1s. “The fact you and the whole ATC team made the right to race 1s. “The fact you and the whole ATC team made this happen, renders all other achievements on the day pale by comparison.

“It‘s a testament to the upgraded Randwick drainage and meticulous preparation of the surface that it was able to race safely and fairly in the context of almost unprecedented rainfall.

“It has also enabled me to enjoy one of my greatest days in racing and as a token of my appreciation to yourselves and the whole team I would like you to have the beautiful Surround Stakes trophy I was so lucky to receive.’’

Royal Randwick Tracks Team with the Surround Stakes Trophy

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