$151 Group 1 winner and you’re not Dreaming
NEWCASTLE trainer Ben Smith masterminded one of the most memorable Group 1 boilovers in Sydney for years in the $1 million Sires Produce Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on Saturday when El Dorado Dreaming beat favourite Oohood in a photo finish.
The $81 chance caused the biggest upset in a Group 1 race in Sydney since Zavite won the 2011 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) at $101.
What makes it more remarkable is that Smith has won a pair of majors with the only two horses he's sent to Group 1 races with In Her Time (The Galaxy) being the other one and it's well known he has one of the best strike-rates in NSW racing - 30.4 per cent - this season.
The Ilovethiscity filly was coming off a second placing to Sangita at Newcastle last week and that was enough to convince Smith she was ready for a shot at The Championships.
"I convinced the owner to run after she pulled up fantastic at Newcastle," he said.
"We thought she'd run well. Her last couple of starts she's been on the pace. We just wanted her ridden quiet to get the 1400m. Damian Lane gave her a peach of a ride and as she was coming around the turn we thought she'd run well."
Smith gave her a Tamworth debut in the spring, convinced the race experience would make her a better horse after a break.
He said he was still pinching himself after the fortnight he's had following In Her Time's win in The Galaxy at Rosehill two weeks ago.
"On her trackwork she is nice and relaxed and goes through her gears. For her to be able to be able to attack the line was good to see," he said.
"We weren't coming here just to make up the numbers. We didn't think she'd be a two-year-old but she trialled so well so we gave her a run and knew she'd come back well and now she's a Group 1 winner."
Jockey Damian Lane was fined $5000 for excessive whip use before the 100m in getting the filly over the line and suspended for a week from April 15-22.
He thought he waited too long to make his run down the outside from the back of the field but was relieved to have got her over the line.
"I thought I got beat and I was filthy with myself but we got there and obviously she has a bucket load of talent," he said.
"I went back from the wide draw seeing most of the field I think I was second last and as we turned for home I thought 'this horse is travelling'."
Oohood's trainer Tony McEvoy still had a smile on his face after his filly again just missed out after running second in the Golden Slipper a fortnight earlier.
"Ah bugger," McEvoy said.
"The other horse just had all the momentum and that's what cost us in the end."
Smith will likely send El Dorado Dreaming for this third leg of the two-year-old Triple Crown, the Group 1 Champagne Stakes (1600m), at Randwick in a fortnight.
"The way she ran today, I think she'll be up to it. I don't think she will be that price though," he said.
"We're starting to get some better quality horses now which makes my job easier and to win this race is pretty special."
VICTOREM BECOMES KING OF THE COUNTRY
Country Championships Final
By Matt Jones
IF there's one person who knows Victorem as well as trainer Jenny Graham, it's her daughter Melinda Turner - and for a moment she questioned if her mum's horse was on track to win Saturday's $500,000 Country Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick.
Turner rides Victorem in all his work and rode him plenty of times in the month leading up to the big race after he won his qualifier at Port Macquarie on February 18.
"He was relaxing a lot more in his work and I found it a bit difficult because he's never been like that and mum assured me it was just because he was maturing to get the 1400m," Turner said.
"I was worrying that something wasn't quite right but when I galloped him with a mate in company, he switched on and he was beautiful.''
Mum was right, as usual, and a top training performance to go with an equally good ride from Ben Looker got the three-year-old over the line to beat favourite Don't Give A Damn by two lengths with O' So Hazy in third.
Graham was always destined to train the $60,000 Magic Millions buy after training his mother Playful Miss and Victorem has now won $607,000 for connections.
"I was always thinking positive because I've always had a big opinion of the horse,'' Graham said.
"He ran terrific. I thought he'd get the 1400m because he does relax. He did chug a little today but he did the job. He pushed the boundaries. He's a man; he pushes the boundaries."
It was arguably the ride of the day by Looker who had to weave his way through the field.
"He was going to be something stiff (if beaten),'' Looker said.
"I went for a run that shut on me but I'm lucky because he's got a great turn of foot so I darted back to the inside and he showed that explosive turn of foot. This is my Melbourne Cup. Obviously, being in the bush you don't find many progressive horses, let alone any as good as Victorem."
Graham said she was proud of how Victorem kept "stepping up to the plate".
There was always a query on Don't Give A Damn's ability to back up a week after winning the Wildcard at Muswellbrook last Sunday.
Ben Looker and Victorem win the Country Championships Final yesterday. Picture: Getty
Jenny Graham hugs Ben Looker after the Country Championships victory.
UNDER-SIEGE HOUTZEN 'JUST WOULDN'T LIE DOWN'
PJ Bell Stakes
By Ray Thomas
H0UTZEN found winning form again, prevailing narrowly in a four-horse thriller at Royal Randwick.
Under siege from the turn, Houtzen found a way to win the Group 3 $200,000 P.J. Bell Stakes (1200m).
Her rider, jockey Glyn Schofield, conceded thinking the filly was in trouble as Problem Solver and Godolphin duo, Manicure and Demerara, issued their challenges.
"She was so brave,'' Schofield said of Houtzen. "The pace was very, very strong. She stalked it and took over like she was going to win easily.
"Then when challenged I felt she was going to give up but in the back of my mind I remembered what she did last start when she fought strongly.
"Trainer Toby Edmonds told me she'd taken a good bit of improvement from her first run and he was spot on. She just wouldn't lie down today.''
Houtzen ($8.50) fought back after being headed in the straight to score by a short-neck with Problem Solver ($21) and Manicure ($15) dead-heating for second. Demerara ($5.50) was a nose away in fourth.
She's So High was sent out $3.50 favourite but appeared to have every chance before finishing fifth.
Houtzen ran fifth as favourite in the Golden Slipper last year and also ran a competitive race when seventh in Redzel's The Everest but Edmonds was relieved to see his stable star return to winning form.
"We knew we had her quite underdone coming here a month ago,'' Edmonds said.
"There were some doubts whether she was the genuine type. Being a precocious two-year-old, it's always difficult to come back and I'm so happy for all the owners."