A Free Standing hat trick is how she rode
FREE Standing could close out 2016 with a bang when he aims for three-in-a-row in the $60,000 Class 3 TAB Highway Handicap (1250m) at Canterbury Park on New Year's Eve.
The four-year-old gelding claimed an easy victory last start in the Class 2 TAB Highway Handicap (1200m) at Royal Randwick on December 17.
He was a little slow out of the barriers but quickly made up ground, shooting along the rail to settle in fourth position.
By the time he reached the straight he was in the lead and fended off a challenge from Deny Allcharges to win by two-and-a-half lengths.
It was a huge achievement for Coffs Harbour-based trainer Cathleen Rode, who operates a boutique stable with just five horses in work.
Free Standing was the second top weight when he won a class 1 race over 1200m at Grafton on 2 December.
He also hit the line well in the Class 2 TAB Highway Handicap (1300m) on October 29 at Rosehill Gardens.
He finished fifth but wasn't far off winner Delightful Feeling after coming from near last at the turn and being held up in the straight.
"He's getting better each time and has really matured this preparation,” Rode said.
"He has always had ability but he was a bit troublesome as a youngster.
"In his first few races he ran around wildly but we put the crossover nose band on and that's settled him down.
"He was also a serial bucker up until recently so hopefully that phase is behind us.”
Jockey Jay Ford, who piloted Free Standing to his last victory, has again been booked for Saturday's meeting.
He will carry the same weight - 55kgs.
"The barrier (8) isn't the best but if Jay rides him in the same manner as last time I'd say we will be expecting a similar result,” Rode said.
"There are a couple of on pace runners who he will try and tuck in behind.”
Stable foreman Steven Thompson owns Free Standing and will be driving him down to Sydney later in the week.
Cathleen will stay in Coffs Harbour to accompany Accord to the race meeting up there and care for her other horses.