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Despite missing the last meeting of the 2022 Burnett to the Beach Series, jockey Kelly Gates was able to hold on and claim the prize just days after farewelling one of her greatest supporters in the saddle.
The 39-year-old Kelly Gates was crowned champion rider of the popular series this year, grabbing 41 points across the nine races on offer, finishing six points ahead of Shannyn Stephan.
Developed by the South East region race clubs, the Burnett to the Beach Points Series is a group of races with above standard prize money.
The series does not culminate in a Final, but there is an owners, trainers and jockeys bonus based on points accrued in the races across the series.
Gates took a big lead into the last leg of the series at Nanango last weekend but was unavailable to ride on the day, travelling to Mt Gambier to be at her Grandmother's funeral.
The hoop's in the chasing pack behind Gates could not secure enough points to overturn her advantage as she landed the winning prize of $1,100.
Gates' Grandmother - Thelma Keatley – passed away at 96 years of age.
Thelma kept a close eye on her granddaughters riding career after also being around equine animals for much of her life.
"She grew up on a farm and was involved in horses and they were around the family," Gates said.
"They were more working horses than racing.
"But, she loved that I followed my passion and stuck with horses and become a jockey.
"She followed my career closely."
Gates scored points in seven of the nine races available across the series.
The 2022 Burnett to the Beach Series was originally set to be run over 11 races but two legs were abandoned.
Being based north-west of Gympie, Gates knows the series is a popular one amongst participants in the area.
"It is a great asset to country racing to have something like this," Gates said.
"We sort of miss out on those types of things so it is really good to have a series like this.
"It is great for country horses, jockeys, trainers and owners, as well."
Eidsvold horseman Bob Murray streaked the field in the trainers section of the series, claiming 80 points after as he also picked up points in seven different events.
As Murray usually books Gates to ride his gallopers, it is no surprise they both took out the prizes.
"I think I have just been lucky to have rides in those races," she said.
"I stick with the trainers that stick by me, people like Bob Murray and Kristen Roon, who are the main trainers that I earned points for in the series.
"They have always been loyal to me so I stick with them.
"I do not chase the faster horses or better rides; I stick with those that are loyal to me even if they have a slower horse at times because they will soon have a fast one."
Gates runs a spelling farm away from her race riding on a Saturday afternoon and rides work in the morning at Gympie and Caloundra, mostly for Trevor Miller and the John Symons and Sheila Laxon yard.
She is heading to Wondai this Saturday afternoon for a book of four engagements before riding at Kilcoy the following day.
Afford finished second to Murray in the trainers' division with 65 points.
Afford was the most consistent trainer of the entire series, racking up points in all but one race.
The managing owner of the horse that accrues the most points in the series receives $6,600, while there is $3,300 on offer for the winning trainer while the leading hoop lands $1,100.