Port Macquarie gelding Victorem wound up its preparation for the country final at The Championships with just over a two lengths’ win in 59.13 seconds at Bushland Drive Racecourse on Monday.
Earlier, jockey Belinda Hodder also starred with wins on board Wauchope gelding Stoddart and a late pick-up ride on Taree gelding Mount Darragh to grab two wins on the seven-race card.
Stoddart came with the run late to beat favourite Merriwa for a neck win in the Saxbys Soft Drinks Benchmark 60 Handicap over 1000m.
Trainer Michael O’Neill said he had kept Stoddart “fresh” and it had been working “super” in the week before the race.
Mount Darragh was well-backed at longer odds and the Cecilia Reid trained five-year-old gelding showed plenty of courage to fight back when headed to score by a short head in the Gloucester Cup on February 26.
Hawkesbury jockey Shaun Guymer’s first visit to Taree races was rewarded with a length win on three-year-old filly Mahervellous, trained at Wyong by Ben Hill, in the Functions at The Winning Post Function Centre Maiden Plate over 1400m.
Two veteran trainers, Wyong’s Evan Holland, 85, and Kempsey’s Peter Ball, 79 next month, also each had a winner on Monday.
Holland was carrying a bandaged arm – legacy of a run-in with a galloper – whereas Ball continued in good health after heart surgery.
Holland and in-form apprentice jockey Mikayla Weir combined with a half-length win with four-year-old gelding Allez Rev ($3.20) and Ball and Robert Thompson had a 1.2 lengths victory with stable newcomer three-year-old gelding Financial ($11).
Ironically, Ball has been training for 62 years and it was the first time he has had a win with Thompson who is nearing 4500 winners.
It was only because jockey Serg Lisnyy couldn’t take the ride due to being injured in a barrier accident that Thompson had the mount in the Australian Guitar Legends On April 21 Benchmark 51 Handicap over 1600m.
Financial was snapped up at a ready to run sale for $2000 and was only having its fourth start for Ball’s son, Tony, and all family members who were trackside to give a Melbourne Cup winning reception for the 1.2 lengths winner.
“I think this horse can win in Sydney,” the happy trainer said.
Thompson had Financial wide and mid-field early from an outside barrier but took off near the turn when Coffs Harbour gelding Lonhie Rocks (second at $4.60) was leading by about eight lengths.
Allez Rev had four good placings out of six provincial company runs and appreciated country class in its half-length win in the Conferences At The Winning Post Function Centre Maiden over 1000m.
Weir was content to sit outside the leader after starting well from her wide barrier and just staved off the well-backed $3 favourite Queen Ablaze, trained at Gosford by Angela Davies, which came wide on the turn in its first start.
“My horse was travelling well, so I rode my own race,” Weir said.
Holland was “rapt” with the win said fellow Wyong trainer Wayne Seelin who was strapping Allez Rev with Holland looking after another runner in the course stables.
Newcastle trainer Kris Lees was again dominant at the meeting with two winners, three-year-old fillies Prontissimo ($3.10) and Waimea Bay ($2.60 to $1.45).
Prontissimo came with a wide-out run from fifth on the turn for Aaron Bullock for an impressive three-quarters of a length win in the 2RE and Max FM Maiden Handicap over 1250m at only her third start.
Stable representative Cherie Marshman said the not overly big filly knows where the line is and was promising.
As for Waimea Bay, a just under a length winner for jockey Andrew Gibbons in the Weddings At The Winning Post Function Centre Benchmark 58 Handicap over 1250m, she said it had grown a lot, had a strong finish and was probably now looking for further.