Newcastle galloper Gem Song is on track for the Group 1 Randwick Guineas following an impressive first-up win in the $160,000 Group 3 Eskimo Prince Stakes at Warwick Farm last Saturday.
Jockey Jason Collett settled the three-year-old in fourth spot on the rails in the six-horse field before trying to ease out approaching the turn.
Unable to get clear room, Gem Song ($5) was forced back to the inside, where the track was arguably at its worst. Even so, the colt was able to finish strongly along the fence to hit the front within the final 150 metres then hold off the fast-finishing Purple Sector to win by a long neck.
“I was a bit worried coming to the home turn when Jason switched him back to the inside, where you probably didn’t want to be, but he had no other option,” Lees said.
“The colt really lengthened nicely when he was under pressure which is the sign of a nice horse.”
Gem Song will have his next start in the Hobartville Stakes at Rosehill on Saturday week before going on to the Randwick Guineas on March 9.
Gem Song’s win capped a successful 24 hours for Lees.
Earlier in the day he had won the 1200-metre two-year-old handicap at Doomben with Raay Of Dreams ($8.50), ridden by Jeff Lloyd, while at Canterbury the previous evening he had won the 1550-metre benchmark 70 with Clevanicc ($3 favourite), ridden by Hugh Bowman, and the 1900-metre benchmark 70 with Our Gravano ($4.80), ridden by apprentice Robbie Dolan.
While we’re on the Canterbury meeting, two bush trainers also enjoyed success. Wagga Wagga-based Grant Colvin claimed the 1250-metre benchmark 70 with Forever NewYork ($7.50), ridden by Jake Duffy, before Goulburn trainer Graham Payne caused a boilover in the following race, the 1100-metre benchmark 72, when Kentucky Flyer won under Jenny Duggan at $31.
Boy blows them away
Queanbeyan galloper Noble Boy ($2.10 favourite) maintained his unbeaten record when he resumed from a spell with victory in the 1200-metre Class 3 TAB Highway Handicap at the Warwick Farm meeting.
After a slow beginning, the four-year-old settled at the tail of the field.
Jockey Hugh Bowman began to move closer to the leaders in the middle stages but was forced to travel wide in order to do so.
Staying wide, Noble Boy hit the front around the 200-metre mark before drawing away to win by two lengths.
The gelding will have his next start in the $150,000 Championships heat at Goulburn on March 2 in a bid to qualify for the $500,000 Country Championships Final (1400m) at Randwick in April.
“He might be better than I thought,” said Blowes after the win.
“I was worried because he wasn’t fully fit. He was only 90 per cent and this will top him up nicely for the Goulburn heat.
“I had this race picked out before his win at Rosehill (December 2) and it’s worked out perfect with three weeks into the run before Goulburn.”
Gwenda going great guns
Local trainer Gwenda Markwell took the training honours at Kembla Grange last Saturday, leading in a winning treble.
She won the 1000-metre benchmark 64 with Chicadilly ($2.70 favourite), ridden by Keagan Latham, then combined with that jockey again to win the 1500-metre benchmark 64 with Captain Manering ($7.50), before bringing up the treble in the 1600-metre Class 2, with Angel of Truth ($3.30), ridden by Chad Lever.
Lever then won the final race on the program, the 1400-metre maiden, aboard Renalot ($13) for trainer David Pfieffer, to bring up a winning double and share riding honours with Latham.
Wanna wins at Walcha
In country cups news, Friday’s 1440-metre Walcha Cup saw $2.15 favourite I Wanna Be a Jeep, trained by Jenny Graham and ridden by Ben Looker, score a comfortable 2½-length win from Blinkin Artie with Glitra third.
Saturday’s 1350-metre Braidwood Cup was won by the Gratz Vella-trained Boys Day Out, ridden by Aaron Sweeney.
The gelding, who started $2.70 favourite, scored by half a length from topweight Beau Tirage, who was conceding the winner 6.5 kilos.
Westlink to Randwick
Dubbo galloper Westlink is bound for the Country Championships final after winning his local heat over 1400 metres last Sunday.
Trained by Darren Hyde and ridden by Adam Hyeronimus, the $2.90 favourite raced away to a 3¼-length win. The minor placings went to Clint Lundholm-trained local Sons of Bourke, who also qualifies for the final, and Sprezzatura.
Westlink’s win in the $150,000 heat gave Hyde his third winner for the day.
Dreaming at last
At Albury last Friday, $1.70 favourite Tycoon Dreaming justified punters’ faith in recording a dominant four-length win in the 1600-metre maiden.
Trained locally by Kym Davison and ridden to victory by Bryan Murphy, the five-year-old had placed six times from 19 prior starts.
This Friday sees the Quirindi Race Club stage its annual cup meeting, while on Saturday cup meetings will be held at Bedgerabong and Tumut.
On Sunday the Port Macquarie Race Club will stage its heat of the Country Championship qualifiers on what should be a great day of racing.