CHAMPION: Strapper Vic Bennetts (left), with CRJC chairman Graeme Green, accepted the Clarence River Jockey Club's Horse of the Year award for Belflyer on behalf of trainer John Shelton.
CHAMPION: Strapper Vic Bennetts (left), with CRJC chairman Graeme Green, accepted the Clarence River Jockey Club's Horse of the Year award for Belflyer on behalf of trainer John Shelton. Jarrard Potter

Belflyer leads the way for Shelton's big night

RACING: It was the John Shelton show at this year's Clarence River Jockey Club's Horse of the Year Awards, with the Grafton trainer scooping up four awards, including Horse of the Year for Kosciuszko champion Belflyer, as well as the Bob Gosling award for best trainer.

Shelton's dominance for the awards was so strong he only missed out on one award from the field in which he received nominations.

However, Shelton himself wasn't on hand to enjoy the accolades of his stables' success, with the trainer in Sydney with Tarbert, where the seven-year-old ran second in the Sydney Markets Handicap (1200m) at Royal Randwick.

Long-time friend and strapper Vic Bennetts was there to accept the awards for Shelton, and said the success was a thrill for the trainer, and the entire stable.

While some of the awards came as a surprise, there was no denying there was only one Horse of the Year contender this year.

As CRJC chief operating officer Michael Beattie said, it's not every day a horse from Grafton runs in Sydney and wins a $1.3 million race.

This year's win was the second consecutive Horse of the Year title for Belflyer, and despite not taking part in this year's July Carnival due to injury, Bennetts said it would't be long before the champion eight-year-old was back on the track.

"He has had a bit of an issue with a fetlock injury but he is coming through and hopefully we will get him and Tarbert down there for the Kosciuszko this year and defend our title two-fold which would be amazing,” he said.

"It would be amazing for any country stable to have two horses in a race like that. I think after (Saturday's) run, Tarbert is almost guaranteed a start, and I think so long as the other horse, Belfyer, maintains his fitness he is entitled to a run. The injury is good, doing a bit of pace work, and he is a deadly horse when he is fresh, and John will try and keep him fresh for as long as possible.”