Amateur rider Toby Lake is looking to do the Goldfields district proud interstate this weekend as the 21-year-old competes in the $50,000 Showcase Picnic Championship at Dubbo.
Lake travelled to NSW last year for the inaugural running of the event and finished second aboard Black Fusion.
He thinks the Neil Osborne-trained Diamond Charlie can go one better on Sunday.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I finished second in this race last year and it’s been a 12-month plan of mine to get back and try to win it.”
Lake’s eight-year-old mount, a winner of seven races, is undefeated in three runs on the picnic circuit this year, with victories in the Ravensworth, Cootamundra and Funny Hill picnic cups. (The Ravensworth Cup is run at Yass, the Funny Hill version at Cakewell.)
“The horse’s form is pretty much faultless and if you forget his last run on a wet track he has the form that should be able to win the race,” Lake explained.
“His three attempts at picnic level he won convincingly by big margins.”
Lake is warming up for a big picnic season in Victoria, starting on Cox Plate day at Alexandra.
Last season he had a breakout year, finishing second in the riders title with 23 wins, four behind fellow Bendigo hoop Courtney Pace.
“This race is the biggest race I’ve ridden in, so to win it would be huge,” said Lake.
Mile the key to Villa
Sutton Grange trainer Paul Banks notched his first winner of the season when Villa Fortuna took out a maiden at bet365 Park Kilmore last Saturday under the guidance of Lewis German.
Villa Fortuna had put the writing on the wall 17 days earlier by finishing fourth at odds of $91 at Ladbrokes Park, at her first attempt at 1600 metres.
Punters didn’t catch on, however, sending her out as a $15 chance for a maiden of the same distance at Kilmore.
From an outside barrier, Vila Fortuna pushed forward and sat off a hot speed, taking the lead at the 500 metres and holding off all challengers to win by 1½ lengths.
Banks paid $12,000 for the filly at the 2016 Inglis VOBIS Gold sales.
She is a half-sister to the stable’s 10-time winner and 2014 Country Horse of the Year Mr Cooley.
Villa Fortuna is named after Fortuna Villa, a historic Bendigo property Banks purchased in 2013.
Saturday’s win was her first trifecta finish in seven starts.
Sell solid in Adelaide
Mick Sell didn’t walk away a winner from Morphettville last Saturday but would’ve been happy nevertheless, after Carlingford finished second and River Lee fourth.
Both horses were sent around as $21 chances and ridden by Dean Holland.
Last-start Bendigo winner River Lee fought on gamely to be beaten only 1¼ lengths, while Carlingford led from an inside barrier and showed plenty of fight to hold off a wall of challengers for second behind the Mick Price-trained Princess of Queens.
Sell, who relocated from Kyneton to Bendigo over winter, has prepared four winners this season at a strike rate of 17 per cent.