By Ray Hickson
Cameron Crockett’s first thoughts were of his late father Max as his unassuming mare Soul Secrets caused an upset in the Country Championships Qualifier on his home track at Mudgee on Sunday.
The popular trainer had six of the 13 runners in the Central Districts heat and while the four-year-old’s win was an upset it provided a special moment.
“It’s bittersweet because I wish dad was here to watch this. He’d be proud,’’ Crockett said.
Max Crockett died in November, aged 74, and was a legend in the racing industry, particularly in the Mudgee area.
The timing of Soul Secrets’ win wasn’t lost on Crockett either as he prepares to leave the Mudgee area and move his training base to Scone.
Soul Secrets had won just one race heading into the Qualifier and had only had two previous starts for Crockett for seconds at Dubbo and Scone.
“It’s amazing what they can do when they get the weight off their back,’’ he said.
“I didn’t expect that, she’s shown us a lot since she’s been here but I can’t say I was expecting it.’’
Crockett, whose only previous runner in the final was Iron Blue in 2016, provided four of the first five home with Barbass, Ori On Fire and Caprera running third to fifth respectively.
They were split by Noel’s Gift who qualified for his second final after also finishing in the runners-up position a year ago.
His trainer Gayna Williams had endured a disappointing lead up to the race with her major chance El Mo having to be scratched with an eye issue.
“I’m so pleased, I’m so proud of him. He’s so unassuming,’’ Williams said.
“I wasn’t confident, it was a very good field but Ashley (Morgan) rode him well.’’
Jockey Adrian Layt said Soul Secrets was very strong at the end of the 1400m while Crockett suspects favourite, and Hugh Bowman’s ride, Ori On Fire didn’t run out the distance after hitting the lead.
“Her last few runs she seems to be hitting the line really well,’’ Layt said.
Soul Secrets wins the Country Championships Qualifier at Mudgee on March 3
“We cut the corner, got through, had to give them a bit of a push to get through but when she did get through she went to the line well.
“It was a strong win, I’m really rapt with her.’’
TAB installed Soul Secrets on the $26 line for the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 6 with Noel’s Gift a $51 chance.’’
Despite his defeat at Goulburn on Saturday Noble Boy remains $5 favourite but will have to run top two in the Muswellbrook Wild Card on March 24.
The shortest priced qualified horses are all at $15 – Al Mah Haha, Bennelong Dancer, Bocelli and Lucciola Belle.