Scone-trained duo rocket into Country Championship final
Scone-trained gallopers Spiranac and Pure Fuego powered into the $500,000 Country Championship final at Randwick on April 3 with the quinella at the Hunter and North West qualifier at Tamworth on Sunday.
The Rod Northam-trained Spiranac, a $7.50 chance, came from well back on the home turn in the $150,000 1400-metre race but was taken on a weaving run through the field by apprentice Reece Jones.
The four-year-old Magic Albert mare did the rest, hitting the front in the final 100m and holding out the Cameron Crockett-trained Pure Fuego, which came down the extreme outside to finish 0.38 of a length away.
It was an emotional win for Northam, who was full of praise for Jones.
"It's a great bunch of owners, some of my best mates, and Yarraman Park, who have been with me since the start," Northam told Sky Thoroughbred Central.
"When I started breaking horses, I rang [Yarraman Park's] Harry [Mitchell] up and he was the first person to give me one to break in.
"They have always supported me over the years. You always know if you're struggling a bit, you ring up Harry and Arthur [Mitchell] and they would help you out.
"Reece, what a ride. He's ice cold. I was panicking coming to the 600.
"But where he's come from in four years ... he couldn't put a head collar on a horse. I asked him after six months who the slipper winner was and he didn't know. I said 'mate, you're not going to make it'. And now, what he's done, he's a little legend. He's ridden that a treat."
Jones said the victory on his "favourite horse" was up there with getting his first city victory last Wednesday on Kosciusko.
Crockett was thrilled with the effort of Pure Fuego, which was a $5.50 equal favourite despite having the second widest gate.
"I was really confident with the horse all the way through, but when the barriers came out, I was pretty devastated," Crockett said.
"The horse is a credit to everyone in the stable. He is absolutely flying.
"He didn't have the ideal prep. He had a very hard run at Newcastle [when second to Media Starguest] and ran into a very good horse, but he's one of the hardest trying horses I've got."
On Saturday, Newcastle trainer Kris Lees' import Collide made a solid Australian debut, finishing third in the listed Randwick City Stakes, as he started a campaign towards the Sydney Cup.
Lees, who claimed the group 3 Newcastle Newmarket with Gem Song on Friday, had one winner on Saturday at Hawkesbury with Sacramento Joe in a maiden.