By Vinnie Todd
Tamworth teenager Liam Martin could be laughing all the way to the bank after his 18th birthday gift Present Sense snatched its third straight victory in the Shay Brennan Constructions Benchmark 70 Handicap (1600m) at Tamworth on Tuesday.
Though Liam, son of the five-year-old’s trainer Craig Martin, wasn’t aware of the gelding’s comfortable win over Mr Spin and Ima Baker until well after the horse had run his race.
He was in Coonabarabran as captain – but spectator only after breaking his leg last week – of his high school’s team at the annual Horse Sport Extravaganza.
“Liam received the horse for his birthday earlier in the year. And from the five starts he’s had him for, he’s won his last three,” Craig Martin said. “But I was reasonably confident he could do the job. He’s done everything right this time in.”
Present Sense’s victory also gave coastal jockey Peter Graham a winning double for the Tamworth meeting. Earlier in the day Graham piloted Big Ben The Clock to a win in the Thread Effects Class 1 & Maiden Plate (1600m) for Scone trainer Rod Northam.
“Pete was full of praise for the horse. He’s ridden him four times now for two wins,” Martin said. “And he reckons he’s just improving all the time. He got across perfectly after jumping and had a beautiful run down the straight.”
Where to now though could be a challenge for the Martin combination.
“He’ll now be up in benchmark quite a bit, so it’ll be a matter of getting the right race for him. I’d like to find a nice race at Grafton now, possibly around the 2000m mark. He’s a distance horse, relaxes well and is able to switch off which is an advantage.”
And while Liam Martin will be laughing all the way to the bank with his win, dad Craig is confident he’ll get his cut from the proceeds. I’m going to buy a quad bike,” the popular trainer joked.
Earlier in the day, local trainer Michelle Fleming was handed a juicy winner’s cheque when St Luke (Terry Green) backed up from a second at Narrabri on Saturday to take out the Advance Inland Security Benchmark 60 (1400m) over Strathaird and Gatto Mondo.
And like Craig Martin, Fleming was also “reasonably confident” her charge could win, particularly after his improved second at Narrabri on the weekend.
“That was a good improvement on his previous start,” she said. “I had him nominated for Tamworth, then when he ate up this morning and was playful and on his game, I thought I’d back him up.”
Fleming has only had the gelding for four months and admits that it’s taken that long to get to know him.
“He’s getting older, but is racing well now. He’s the sort of horse that has to be raced when he’s at peak fitness. Terry (jockey Terry Green) said he travelled well through the race despite taking a while to wind up.”