AMIDST the celebrations of a Royal Randwick victory on Saturday, an emotional Jason Attard’s thoughts were for his good mate Daniel Ick.
The popular Hawkesbury trainer had just won the final event, the Hong Jockey Club Trophy (1400m), with well-backed Kellyville Flyer ($9.50) when he quickly turned his attention off course to Ick and his wife Melissa.
“Daniel is in ill health and is doing it tough,” Attard explained. “He and Melissa live just down the road from us at Reiby Croft Stud and are both close friends and great supporters.
“Melissa is an absolute legend the way she has looked after Dan this last year. Kellyville Flyer’s win was pretty special in the circumstances. I hope it gave them a real boost.”
Enjoying his best season so far, Attard clinched his 16th success of the racing year with Kellyville Flyer, and nearly celebrated a city double.
The seven-year-old mare’s younger six-year-old brother Sons Of John ($11) finished gamely into second placing behind Top Of My List ($18) in the Group 3 JRA Plate (2000m).
“Both horses cleaned their feed bowls up overnight; they have pulled up really well,” Attard said.
As much as $21 was bet about Kellyville Flyer, who sustained a strong run down the outside to notch her third city win, beating Duca Valentinois ($7) and Maurus ($17).
Now Attard is setting his sights on Saturday week’s $200,000 Group 3 Hawkesbury Gold Cup (1600m) – a race he won two years ago with Sons Of John.
“I hope it stays wet; she is pretty effective on rain-affected ground,” he said.
Kellyville Flyer finished 10th to Mackintosh in a Benchmark 77 Handicap (1500m) at the corresponding Hawkesbury stand- alone fixture 12 months ago on a good surface.
But she is clearly now in the best form of her career, having run a splendid first-up third to subsequent Doncaster Mile runner-up Happy Clapper in the Group 3 Newcastle Newmarket (1400m) last month prior to yesterday’s triumph.
Sons Of John, meanwhile, is being aimed at the $150,000 Listed Lord Mayor’s Cup (2000m) at Rosehill Gardens on May 6.
“He is a more mature horse, and his run showed that he is now looking for middle distances rather than 1400m to 1600m,” Attard said.
Fellow Hawkesbury trainers Wade Slinkard and Martin McInerney also celebrated Easter victories at their home track meeting last Thursday.
For McInerney, it was a double celebration. His $2.40 favorite Calabash Express broke through for his first win in the Micway Cold Logistics Solutions Maiden Plate (1500m) on the occasion of he and his wife’s 21st wedding anniversary.
Calabash Express had been runner-up five times previously, and Kerrin McEvoy (a replacement for Hugh Bowman, who was unable to ride at the meeting) made no mistake on the gelding, who scored easily from Colorado Miss ($41) and another Hawkesbury representative, Garry White’s Letter To Juliette ($10).
Slinkard was both delighted and surprised when Legistation ($14) took advantage of a rails-hugging ride from Jay Ford and bolted away with the G & K Electrical Class 2 Handicap (1300m).
“I didn’t think he could win when he didn’t lead,” Slinkard admitted afterwards. "Now we’ve got another string to our bow with the horse.”
Having his first start since mid-November, Legistation earned himself a shot at a forthcoming feature country event.
Slinkard is eyeing the Soldier’s Saddle (1400m) – a Class 4 Handicap – which is run annually at Bathurst’s Anzac Day TAB meeting.