Craig Weeding’s provincial breakthrough on his home track at Hawkesbury on Saturday carried extra significance. Not only did he produce a superb training performance to win with a five-year-old mare making her debut, but he also broke her in.
Caliera Gem ($10), with Robbie Brewer aboard, made a dream start to her racetrack career when she landed the AVEO Bella Vista Maiden Handicap (1100m) against her own sex. Showing real grit when it counted, she fought it out right to the end to edge out fancied pair Alison Of Tuffy ($2.60 favourite) and Rose Of Savannah ($3.90).
“Yes, it was a pretty special result for everyone connected with the mare,” a delighted Weeding said.
“Caliera Gem’s owners Sue and Pip Middleton and Lisa Clark have been very patient, and it was great they were at the track to see her win.
“They bought Caliera Gam privately as a foal and I broke her in. Apart from being a slow maturer, the mare has had a few issues and little setbacks. Nothing serious, but enough to keep her from racing until now.”
Weeding’s first five wins were all achieved last season on country tracks. He scored with Chocolate Coated at Queanbeyan on January 27, and then Chekkapen (at Bathurst on June 3 and Mudgee on July 1) and Operose (at Mudgee on June 16 and Dubbo on July 7).
Before Saturday, he had taken a horse to the provincials on only six occasions without any luck. Not having tasted provincial success, understandably he wasn’t confident Caliera Gem could make a winning debut – but nonetheless expected her to be competitive.
“I was happy with how she trialled at Hawkesbury last month (second to Global Royal over 760m) and went to the races thinking she could run well and hoping she could win,” Weeding said. Weeding has eight horses in work, and also breaks in dressage horses.
Fellow Hawkesbury trainers Scott Singleton and Terry Croft also enjoyed weekend success. Singleton scored with Alastriona at Goulburn last Friday (his second victory this season, having also won at Goulburn on August 3 with Partners) and Croft won his first race this season when No Escape, proving himself a real track specialist, scored at Mudgee on Sunday.
Alastriona (Jess Taylor) showed that she can be effective on turf as well as synthetic tracks. Since joining Singleton’s team, her first four runs were on Canberra’s ACTON track for two wins and a second.
He took winkers off the Pluck mare and replaced them with blinkers. A $14 chance, she opened up a big lead in the Benchmark 58 Handicap (1400m) against her own sex and had just enough in reserve to hold off Vertex ($41) and Arrondisement ($5.50).
Winning rider Taylor explained that she had intended to lead on Alastriona, though not by the sizeable margin she did: “The reins kept slipping in the wet conditions,” she said. “The mare did a good job to hold on.”
Croft won the Mudgee Mug with No Escape ($4.20 fav), who is unbeaten from three starts on the track – and all have been at 1400m. Hawkesbury apprentice Qin Yong was aboard in his Class 3 victory on May 19 and again on July 1 when he landed the Alfabs Cup. This time another apprentice Robbie Dolan had the mount, his 2kg claim lessening the gelding’s weight to 54kg.
No Escape bounced back from a last-start defeat in the Forbes Cup (1600m) on August 6 as a $2.50 favourite when he made the running, and relished a return to 1400m and being ridden off the pace.
Dolan’s rails-hugging ride enabled him to narrowly defeat $31 roughie Annecy and A Magic Zariz ($5.50), posting the sixth win of his 27-start career. Hawkesbury trainers have now prepared 12 winners in just over the first month of the 2018-19 racing year.