The most celebrated victory on premier night at Alexandra Park last week was definitely in the worst field on the card.

It was the last of the night and a field of middling trotters were going around, the connections of one horse about to get a gift from God in the form of the thick end of a $20,000 stake.

The race was named the Shane Hayes Farewell, after the accomplished former horseman who went missing, presumed drowned, in Northland just over two years ago.

He was best known for training and driving 1996 Dominion Handicap winner, Chiola Cola, when based at Kumeu in partnership with his late father, Don.

He also spent time training in Victoria from 1999-2004 before returning home and ultimately settling in Mangawhai, a sleepy seaside town north of Auckland, with his family.

After training the odd horse at nearby Ruakaka, he eventually left the game completely a decade ago and transitioned to a lifestyle based around working as a truck driver and fishing.

“A boat appeared on the back lawn, I started a real estate career and the lifestyle here quickly took over,” his wife, Laureen, told me in a story this time last year.

Laureen Hayes (left) and Angela Bedwell celebrate the win of Celtic Thunder in the Shane Hayes Farewell Trot.

But on February 8 of 2017 everything changed, Shane went out to do a quick motor check on his boat and never returned, his body not found despite an extensive search.

Fast-forward to last week, and Laureen had organised a race in Shane’s honour.

Not to do things by half, a group of Shane’s family and friends, numbering over 150, descended on Alexandra Park to enjoy a night’s racing and celebrate their mates’ life.

There were no thoughts to actually being part of the action, until a lifelong friend of Laureen’s stepped in.

Angela Bedwell hails from Kumeu – her father, John, trained local mare Merinai to win the Rowe Cup in 1998 – and she knew Laureen and Shane from way back in the 1980s.

“I was a flower girl at their wedding, actually,” she said.

“My family was one of many racing families there back in the day, along with the Hayes, the Pilchers, the Coles and Tommy and Jean Knowles.”

Bedwell, who is good friends with Cambridge trainer Arna Donnelly, by chance had an ownership stake in a horse in the race, Celtic Thunder.

“I was pretty excited when I found out we were in Shane’s race, even if I only thought he we could run third or fourth at best.

“On the morning of the race, I had an idea, and messaged Laureen wondering if she would let the horse race in Shane’s colours.

“She was over the moon with the idea and gave it the green light.”

So, Scott Phelan donned Shane and Don’s maroon with a yellow and grey checked sash and went out, connections and the Hayes army not filled with any real confidence.

“The messages kept going back and forth for a few days and I reckon I’ve watched the replay 28 times now.”

Celtic Thunder was fourth favourite, but probably should have been a bit longer than $12, most likely many of those 150 supporters backed him in a show of solidarity.

But, to everyone’s surprise, and many believe with Hayes looking down, Celtic Thunder worried Sunny Pegasus out of the win in a battling go, the roars of the crowd audible from everywhere on course.

“Gosh, I never dreamed it would have happened like that,” said Bedwell.

“We were all absolutely over the moon and it made for a fitting tribute.

“Both of Shane’s children were there, and his nephew led the horse out to the parade ring for Arna.

“The messages kept going back and forth for a few days and I reckon I’ve watched the replay 28 times now.”

Deal done on Derby place-getter

Last week’s close-up Northern Derby place-getter, Supreme Dominator, has been sold to Australian interests out of Barry Purdon’s stable.

The deal, to clients of Joe Pace’s stable in Bacchus Marsh, was actually finalised before the Derby, but part of the agreement was the original owners could race it in the $250,000 feature.

He won’t head to Pace immediately, however, with the $200,000 New Zealand Derby at Addington on April 5 acting as his last hurrah in his homeland.