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  • Provincial Racing NSW


THERE was something “unique” about Executive Decision’s Newcastle victory on Saturday.

Not only did the lightly-raced two-year-old defeat older horses in the Maiden Plate (900m) as a $31 outsider at his third career start, but he also provided his hobby trainer Mark Cross with his first winner of the season.

Wyong-based Cross, who keeps only a few horses in work at a time, was thrilled to see his homebred, ridden by Jean Van Overmeire, surge between fancied pair Octavian Treasure ($2.25 favorite) and Capital Dancer ($4), who had made the running, in the closing stages to break through.

He was surprised at the gelding’s odds, pointing out his previous fifth (beaten three and a half lengths) at Gunnedah against his own age on May 26 was far from disappointing.

“It was an Open two-year-old handicap, and the winner Zampano had won the Romantic Dream at Tamworth at his previous start,” Cross said.

“I made the trip to Gunnedah as I felt it would be good experience for Executive Decision getting away from home, and he handled it all really well.”

Cross and his wife Alison bred Executive Decision from their mare Stradance, whom they bought online for “a couple of grand” after she had started 20 times (for four wins) for two previous trainers.

“We won seven races with her, including breaking the 1200m record at the Bong Bong picnics with 64kg (after a 3kg allowance) in 2016,” Cross said.

“Stradance was retired after winning at Taree by five lengths in July 2018.

“Executive Decision (by Hallowed Crown, who won six of his nine starts including the 2015 Group 1 Randwick Guineas) is her third foal, and I’ve got high hopes for him as a three-year-old.

“Jean (Van Overmeire) told me afterwards not to run him again at 900m, and I think he might get a middle-distance next season and perhaps develop into a classic horse.

“I was pleased to be able to get Jean for the Newcastle race. He has ridden a number of winners for me.”

Cross keeps only a few horses in work at a time, and trains a different breed; educating detector dogs.

Such is the reputation of he and his wife’s Unique K9 Security Services Pty/Ltd, acknowledged as Australia’s leading bomb detection dog outfit, that he was called on by the USA to play an important role in the aftermath of the infamous terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 (referred to as 9/11) which killed nearly 3000 people after two of four hijacked plans were deliberately crashed into New York’s World Trade Centre.

“They did not have enough detector dogs, and I sold a number of our dogs to the US authorities,” Cross recalled.

“I took them over myself and helped them settle in to the work required, rather than simply hand them over.”

Cross stayed there for a couple of months and, understandably, has never forgotten it.

“It took a lot out of me, and hard to believe the 21st anniversary is coming up in a few months,” he said.

“I remember standing in the middle of Ground Zero (the name given to the former World Trade Centre site in Lower Manhattan, which now stands as a permanent tribute to 9/11 victims).

“It was just horrific. Words can’t describe the scene and how I felt.”

Unique K9 Services also was heavily involved in strict security measures surrounding Sydney’s 2000 Olympic Games and 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

“We cut the business right back when COVID-19 struck in Australia, but was subsequently called on to help out again and now we’re busier than ever,” Cross said.

Executive Decision (the racehorse) was named after the 1996 film of that name.

“My son was a former policeman and actor Steven Seagal’s character (Lt Colonel Austin Travis) was killed early in that movie,” he said.


Kembla Grange trainer Mitch Beer continued an outstanding recent run when Order To Charge ($3) followed Executive Decision’s victory by taking the 4YO & Up Maiden Plate (1500m).

This was Beer’s sixth winner from his last 12 runners.

His run began when Pony Show scored at home on June 4, and was followed by Mnementh (Royal Randwick on June 8), Mount Warning and Reward With A Rose (Sapphire Coast on June 9), and Scissor Me Timbers at Nowra on June 13.

Beer’s latest winners have taken his career tally to 235, and he was greatly impressed with apprentice Mitch Stapleford’s manner both before the race and his display in the saddle, ansd forecast a bright future for him.

Newcastle trainers Nathan Doyle and Paul Perry joined the provincial winners’ list at their home meeting.

Doyle clinched a double with Coastal Groove ($9) and Gago ($12), the latter being one of jockey Mitchell Bell’s three winners, and Perry scored with $2.30 favorite Curl Curl.

Story John Curtis, June 16, 2024 - Pics Bradley PHotos




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