After a relatively slow start to the season by her lofty standards, Courtney Pace clicked into gear at Balnarring last Saturday with winners in the first three races.
Victoria’s reigning champion pcinic jockey notched her treble for three different trainers, winning the 1050-metre maiden on Valleyofthedolls ($3) for Mark Stephenson, the 1200-metre maiden on Delightful Spirit ($3) for Peter White and the 1200-metre trophy (1) on Sheer Force ($2.50 favourite) for Robert Linnell.
The treble saw Pace move back to the top of the table on five winners for the season, one clear of perennial rival Reece Goodwin, whose four winners include the season-opening Cranbourne Corinthian on Smash the Gong, trained by his father, Barry.
Smash the Gong franked the Corinthian form last Sunday by winning a benchmark 58 at the professional meeting at Benalla.
Dylan gets it done
At the other end of the profile scale, the Benalla meeting ended with first-season jockey Dylan Dean riding his first winner.
Southern Buccaneer was sent out a $2.30 favourite for Cranbourne trainer Kevin Corstens, despite stepping straight into trophy (2) grade off a pair of maiden defeats at the Tatura and Swan Hill professionals by 9.55 and 11.2 lengths.
With the advantage of Dean’s three-kilo claim, the Gonski four-year-old gave his supporters little cause for alarm over the 1600 metres, booting clear to score by 4½ lengths from Courtney Pace’s mount, $2.50 second favourite My Friend Stan.
Walker wins on Wolf
In the day’s biggest field at Balnarring, the 1200-metre open trophy, Dani Walker on the Carolyn Knight-trained Howling Wolf ($5.50) narrowly held out Ray Douglas on Mega D’Oro.
Nine faced the starter and, in a picnic rarity, it was nearly each-way odds the field.
The $4.60 favourite was Courtney Pace’s mount, Kapscero, who only managed to beat one home.
Sky on a roll
Bendigo-based picnic hoop and sometime Winning Post columnist Toby Lake notched his second win from just four rides on the Victorian circuit this season when he guided Celestial Sky to an easy 5¼-length win in the 1600-metre open trophy.
The Mick Bell-trained six-year-old is unbeaten from two picnic starts this season and was sent out a $2 favourite on the strength of a last-start second at the professionals.
There are strong fields again this Saturday for Yea’s season opener, with mild weather forecast.