Simone Vella’s previous experience as an approved rider won her a first time Goulburn booking on Monday – and it paid off. The Hawkesbury apprentice made the most of her opportunity, leading throughout on former Victorian filly Northern River ($7.50) in the Benchmark 65 Handicap (1400m).
It was only the second win of Vella’s “new” career – her first was at Carinda last July – after she decided to take the “plunge” last year from an approved rider (she rode seven winners in 2016-17) to join the professional ranks.
Crookwell publican and hobby trainer Graham Payne wanted a 3kg claimer for his filly, with whom he had accepted in two races; the other also being a Benchmark 65 over 1200m.
“Simone had never ridden for me before, but I knew she had ridden winners at the picnics,” Payne explained. “I told her to make full use of Northern River’s 53kg, and she did a good job on the filly.”
Vella defied the general pattern on a windy day at Goulburn, where leaders found it tough going. She took Northern River to the front soon after the jump, and the filly kicked strongly in the straight to score easily. Not only was it her first experience at Goulburn, but she had the added thrill of beating last weekend’s Golden Slipper-winning trainers, Team Hawkes.
Northern River ran the 1400m right out, defeating the Hawkes-trained Spooky Wooky.
Meanwhile, Hawkesbury Race Club chairman Ken Quigley celebrated a victory at the corresponding Tamworth meeting on Monday. Quigley is a member of a syndicate which races Uncle Sugar ($10), who won the Benchmark 65 Handicap (1600m).
The former New Zealand eight-year-old is trained at Hawkesbury his daughter and son-in-law, Tara and Philippe Vigouroux. Apprentice Mikayla Weir stole the race when she shot the gelding through near the inside to dash clear and hold off the challenges of Bonnie Sare ($9.50) and Ayham ($6).
It was Uncle Sugar’s seventh win (his first two were in New Zealand) from a 49-start career. He has also been placed on 15 occasions.