King claims crown
LAURIE Richardson is still celebrating after continuing his love affair with the Casino Racing Club.
Beaudesert-based Richardson saw his charge Acting King seal a thrilling win in the Happy Birthday Bede Pratt Benchmark 54 Handicap (1900m) at Saturday's $105,000 meet.
The $6 shot sealed the win on the line, edging out challenger Desert Ruler in a photo-finish to snatch its fourth win in 18 starts.
Richardson, who has enjoyed wins in the Coraki and Casino cups with previous runners at the Grafton Rd track, was delighted with the feature race triumph.
"It is a happy hunting ground for us," he said.
"We just seem to come here with the right horses. You need fit horses to do well here and that's what we've had.
"I am delighted."
The five-year-old brown gelding has been in useful form since returning in late December from a 12-month spell, racking up a second place over 1600m at Ballina last month.
Jockey Allan Chau held his nerve in the tight finish to ensure Acting King edged home ahead of Desert Ruler ($4), with fellow joint favourite Object of Virtue a close third.
Despite the tense finish and testing conditions, Richardson said he had been confident of victory.
"Allan thought they were in trouble at the halfway stage so it was a good effort," Richardson said. "This was (the horse's) first go above a mile, (but) he is bred to handle the wet tracks.
"He has all the attributes to be a good horse. He has strength and is a good eater.
"We will find him the weakest 2000m race we can find and maybe work on getting him up to 2500m."
It was also a happy day for John Wallace.
The Gold Coast trainer's charge Casino Bride captured the $15,000 Paul Campbell Slashing and Mowing F and M Maiden Plate (1200m).
It was another exciting run for the former Melbourne three-year-old, which now has one win and two places from five starts.
"I didn't know if she would handle the track, but she had no trouble," Wallace said. "She is a promising little filly and will go a lot further."
Casino apprentice jockey Kasie Stanley, who is based at Grafton, maintained her promising form by steering Ogre to victory in the $15,000 Charcoal Inn C, G and E Benchmark 50 Handicap (1200m).
Ballina's Stephen Lee was the only Northern Rivers trainer to win with Higher 'N' Higher snaring the $15,000 Casino RSM Club Class 3 Handicap (1300m).
The five-year-old gelding now has four wins from 23 starts and remains a handy bet on the region's tracks.