Goulburn trainer Danny Williams was left to sweat on the handicapper’s assessment after Atmospheric Rock ($4.40) finished strongly from well back on the turn to take last Saturday’s Class 3 Highway Handicap at Randwick.
The lightly raced four-year-old reeled in Nipotino and won drawing away from that galloper by three-quarters of a length with Shine Your Light a long neck away in third place.
It was an impressive win, as jockey Jason Collett had little more to do than steer his mount to the line.
Williams was hoping the gelding’s new rating would preclude the need for another Highway run on Saturday week, something the trainer was hoping to avoid.
“His turn of foot was quite good and if we have to run him in two weeks’ time, it may just take that little bit of dash away from him,” Williams explained.
Following Saturday’s win, Atmospheric Rock’s price was slashed from $26 to $15 for the Country Championship Final, the race for which he’s been set.
“He’s the right sort of mould of horse, low in the weights, lightly raced, a good form horse and a 1400-metre specialist. He’s just got that upside about him,” Williams said.
If Atmospheric Rock’s new rating eliminates the need for another Highway start, he will have his next run in the Country Championships Qualifier at Moruya on March 3.
Brude’s a beauty
Later on the Randwick program, a thrilling finish to the 1000-metre benchmark 94 saw Newcastle galloper Brudenell ($17), trained by Kris Lees and ridden by apprentice Dylan Gibbons, get up a nose from Derry Grove with the favourite, Frilled, another nose away in third and Renosu fourth.
Officially 0.14 of a length covered the first four home.
“That was a hard watch,” Lees said. “He’s just a really consistent horse and Dylan gave him a lovely ride today.
“At his most recent start, they went along at a really good tempo throughout and it just took a little bit out of him but he’s freshened up nicely and carrying that weight (59kg) against some up-and-coming sprinters is a good effort.
“Every time he wins, I say he’s going to be hard to place now, but he keeps winning. We’ll keep him a bit fresh and see where we go.”
It was a productive afternoon for Lees as the stable also notched a double at the Doomben meeting.
In the opening race, an 1100-metre handicap for two-year-olds, $1.40 favourite Miss Busslinger scored a comfortable 1¼-length win with Andrew Mallyon in the saddle, while in the 1200-metre Class 3, Strapparsi ($7) got the major end of the prizemoney under Kyle Wilson-Taylor, albeit by just a short half-head. Murwillumbah trainer Matthew Dunn also got in on the act, taking out the 1200-metre handicap for three-year-olds with $1.40 favourite Fukubana, ridden by James Orman.
Worth the trip
Tamworth trainers had a day out at Walcha last Friday, picking up both the $45,000 Walcha Cup (1440m) and the $50,000 Super Maiden (1000m).
The Stephen Meyer-trained Danza In The Dark ($6.50) took the cup, ridden by apprentice Cobi Vitler. The winner scored by a half-length from Starlink with a similar margin to third-placed Zaidin.
The Super Maiden saw the Cody Morgan trained-Distant, ridden by apprentice Braith Nock ($6) edge out stablemate Master Miyagi ($3.30) to win by a long head with $1.75 favourite Carbrook a short neck away in third place.
The win brought up a winning double for Nock, who shared riding honours for the meeting with fellow apprentice Vitler.
At the Canberra meeting the same afternoon, Alysha Collett took riding honours with a winning treble.
It was a Dubbo-trained one-two in last Saturday’s Bedgerabong Picnic Cup (1400m), with the Clint Lundholm-trained, Tupou ($7) beating the Connie Greig-trained Linden Tree by a neck. The win brought up a double for jockey Ricky Blewitt.
Elsewhere that day, the 1350-metre Braidwood Picnic Cup went to the John Rolfe-trained Off Shaw ($5), ridden by Pierre Boudvillain. Minor placings went to Ronny Rock Art and Final Showdown.
At Tumut the same afternoon, the 1400-metre Tumut Cup went to $16 chance Tough James, trained at Albury by Garry Worsnop and ridden by his granddaughter, apprentice Teighan Worsnop.
The winner scored by a half-length from Ferrari Girl with the favourite, Daly Heads, a further length and a quarter away in third place.
The win brought up a double for the Worsnop team to give Teighan riding honours. Wangaratta trainer Craig Weeding fared best of the trainers, leading in a winning treble.
The road to the Country Championships Final continues this weekend with two qualifiers, each carrying $150,000 in prizemoney.
On Saturday, the Lismore Turf Club will conduct the Northern Rivers heat while the following day, the Albury Race Club will stage the Southern District heat.
“This will be the most prestigious race meeting our club has ever held and we are excited to put on a show and highlight the north coast of NSW,” said Lismore Turf Club secretary/manager Scott Jones.
The first two placegetters in each of the heats, will go through to the $1 million Country Championship Final at Randwick on Saturday April 6.
Banned over blue
Racing NSW has suspended apprentice Olivia Pickering for three months following an investigation into an incident at Grafton racecourse on Monday January 29, involving approved rider Tayla Poy.
Pickering was found guilty of having dragged Poy from her mount and physically assaulted her.