Jockey Michael Heagney takes River Street (far right) first past the post to win the Casino Cup yesterday ahead of Montana Hilton (6).
Jockey Michael Heagney takes River Street (far right) first past the post to win the Casino Cup yesterday ahead of Montana Hilton (6). DOUG EATON

River Street swoops

EVEN his best mate had written him off.

But River Street left egg all over trainer Andrew Pilling’s face yesterday when he swooped late to land back-to-back Casino Cups in a blanket finish.

Pilling didn’t give his galloper much hope heading into the feature – but while his judgement was off in that instance, he must be doing something right.

It’s some feat to get an eight-year-old to the track consistently let along have him winning back-to-back $20,000 feature races.

River Street is a marvel; Pilling a master.

And like in 2009, Michael Heagney was the pilot.

Just eight days ago the son of Easy Rocking was beaten by 12 lengths in a sub-standard Eagle Farm handicap race.

Pilling and his stable thought the old boy they call ‘Rocky’ was gone.

But the master nursed him through the week – cautious not to overwork the equine pensioner before the big one.

In fact, the horse never even went to the track in the build-up.

“We just swam him and walked him,” Pilling said.

“He is getting on so you have to be careful with him and it has paid off.”

The stable thought their star was going great guns leading into his Brisbane failure last week and told anyone who would listen to back him.

Strange things happen in racing.

On Friday The Northern Star was unable to contact Pilling for an assessment of his charge’s chances – but he gave our photographer his thoughts.

“Lucky you didn’t get hold of me,” Pilling said yesterday.

“I would have told you ‘We are in the race but we can’t win’.

“Then I would have looked real silly.”

Word on the track was to steer clear of River Street but one punter stuck solid and landed a handy collect.

Steve Browning has backed River Street every start since Pilling has had him – and he reckons he is well in front.

“He is my favourite horse, for sure,” Browning said.

“He has won plenty for me.

“There was a picture of Brigitte Bardot up in my room but I’ll take it down now and put one of Rocky up.”

A wall of horses hit the line in a thrilling finish to the Cup – to the naked eye Montana Hilton looked the certain winner.

But Samantha Munro’s mount was relegated to second at the death on the deceptive Casino post with Peaceful Belle third and three more horses within a length.

There was a late plunge for city-performed Lucky Elmo in the closing moments of betting, and he and local hero Blackbeard tried to make it a two-horse race by putting eight lengths on the rest of the field by the home turn.

But the pair succeeded only in having each other defeated as the pack closed on them in the final 100 metres as they ran out of gas.

River Street now has four wins from five starts at Casino and while he will be another year older the next time the Casino Cup is run, Pilling was not going to rule him out.

“We will be back,” he said.

“I’d be silly to write him off, wouldn’t I?”

 



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