Benchmark 45 Handicap winner Ga Cruiser with trainer Brian Farmer and jockey Robert Agnew.
Benchmark 45 Handicap winner Ga Cruiser with trainer Brian Farmer and jockey Robert Agnew.

Money stays local

SOUTH Lismore Cup day tossed up a mixed bag for punters on Saturday with a pair of plunges landed, a couple of long-shots getting up and two gallopers making impressive winning returns after long lay-offs.

Seven hundred turned out to support the McGrath Foundation on ladies’ day and were treated to some strong racing as well as the appearance of Takeover Target, which turned back time with an exhibition gallop between races.

Most of the prizemoney in the six races stayed local with Stephen Lee, Jennifer Smith, Patrick Begley (all Ballina), Brian Farmer (Casino) and Grant Marshall (Murwillumbah) collecting winner’s cheques.

But as has become routine over the years, Ballina’s biggest players Danny Bowen and Darron Coleman stole the show, winning the 1300m South Lismore Cup with $20 shot Peterswood.

A promising three-year-old filly imported from New Zealand, Peterswood collected the cup for Bowen and Coleman just three runs back into her career which was almost derailed by injury.

After breaking her maiden at Grafton in April 2009, the chestnut was found to have serious problems with her feet and was sent to the spelling paddock for six months.

But when she came from six lengths back to round up the leaders then go past them, Coleman knew she had been worth the wait.

“We always knew she had a bit of ability,” Coleman said. “But there is always a bit of doubt as to how they will return after such a long lay-off.”

The filly had to be urged along early, with Coleman giving her a cut with the whip around the 800m, but the champion jock always planned to hunt her along due to the race conditions.

“Up to a mile is probably her best distance so I just needed to have her ticking along nice and early in the race,” he said.

“I always knew we would be getting back. I was also confident we would be there at the end but I never thought she would win so impressively.”

Other winners on the day included Ga Cruiser, which ended a run of 10 unplaced efforts when he pounced at the line to score a narrow victory in the 1000m Benchmark 45 Handicap.

Robert Agnew patiently positioned the grey in behind fancied runner Waterbury and timed his run to perfection to set the stands cheering after punters on track backed him from $11 in to $7.

A smart ride from Craig Franklin landed Jennifer Smith her first winner in more than a year with Strategic mare Snowshoe in the 1200m Maiden Plate.

Franklin maintained control of his mount while others went hell for leather in a battle for the lead and it paid off with the big mare stamping another thrilling finish when she nailed Ballet Bird on the line.

Punters were cheering from the opening race when the Stephen Lee-trained Hawkins Hill landed the plunge after being backed from $4 in to $3.

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