NOT quite tough enough.
That was the honest assessment from Port Macquarie trainer Jenny Graham on Awesome Pluck after the four-year-old gelding finished third on Saturday.
In the first running of the $1.3 million The Kosciuszko (1200m), the Country Championship runner-up led down the straight only to fall short as rank outsider Belflyer charged to victory.
“(Over) 1100 he might have held on, but 1200 and (being) first-up, he probably wasn’t quite tough enough to hold them out,” Graham admitted.
“I was still really happy with the run and it was a great ride.”
It was a remarkable effort for the Port Macquarie stable who only learned on Wednesday that they would have another runner in the inaugural race.
Racing NSW stewards had to scratch Care To Think due to a high temperature, which gave Awesome Pluck the final place in the field.
Graham conceded the extra distance was just a little bit too much for him to overcome.
“With the track conditions, I felt it told on him a bit going into a heavy track first up,” she said.
“He only got beaten by 0.7 (lengths) so he wasn’t beaten by very far and he held on pretty well I thought to finish third.
“I was cheering for a little while (but) the condition of the track and the 1200 made it a bit difficult for him.”
At a rain-sodden Randwick Racecourse, pre-race favourite and stablemate Victorem didn’t quite get going.
“Victorem got back a little bit too far and his wheels were spinning when we went for home,” Graham said.
“Awesome Pluck was up close enough (to the leaders) where he wasn’t getting a lot of kick back.”
The trainer had a feeling Awesome Pluck was going to go okay despite the heavy track, so she wasn’t surprised that he hit the front down the straight.
“I’ve always had a high opinion of him, it’s just that he’s got a few racing manners that we’ve got to get into place,” she said.
“I think that will help and certainly Saturday helped him a bit more with the experience so going forward I think he’s going to be a very nice horse.
“I was always a little bit confident he’d run well because I know he does handle the wet conditions and I did say he’s one of the dark horses.”
Graham admitted it was a “nice feeling” that Port Macquarie is now home to a top three racehorse in the state.
“Like all country trainers, you put in a lot of work and it’s nice to get repaid,” she said.