It was all one-way going in Sunday’s Gundagai Cup, with the Craig Weeding-trained Prince of Helena bolting in for an easy victory in the $34,000 feature.
Ridden by Jake Duffy, the five-year-old had a good sit in behind the pace, racing four back and one-out as Momack ran them along in the 1700m event.
Duffy made his move on the turn, and found the front easily, winning by four lengths from the Barbara Joseph, and Matt and Paul Jones-trained Roman (Quayde Krogh) in second, while early leader Momack (Shaun Guymer) for Blake Ryan hung on gamely for third.
The win assures Prince of Helena his place in the $200,000 Wagga Gold Cup on May 6, and while Weeding wasn’t on course for the race, stable representative John Kissick confirmed the Wagga feature was now the stable’s big target this preparation.
“Craig has done a great job with him,” Kissick said.
“He has sort of gone through his grades. He is a promising horse and Craig picked this race out on a Wagga Cup path and it’s paid off and he is exempt from (the) ballot now.”
The Sidestep gelding started a well-supported $2.60 favourite in the feature after arriving in Gundagai following a 12th place finish in the $250,000 Country Mile Series final at Flemington on March 19.
“He was a bit unlucky last start, but he qualified for one of those big country finals and went to Flemington and had no luck but was back here today in a good field and put them away convincingly,” Kissick said.
“Craig does a great job with his horses, and he (Prince of Helena) is going the right way.”
Price of Helena has now started 19 times for five wins and ten placings, and his jockey Jake Duffy believes he will only improve on the effort.
“He was still having a good look about, so I think that is a sign he is a pretty nice horse (and) he was running away from them,” Duffy said.
The Wangaratta runner handled the trip, which is impressive considering it was his first time racing past the 1600m journey.
“Although it was only a Gundagai Cup, I honestly reckon there was a fair bit of depth to that race today and for him to put pay to them like that, for a horse that hasn’t had a lot of racing and is still pretty new to the game, it’s a good sign,” Duffy said.
“(It was his) first go beyond a mile too; he handled that really well and travelled really well.”
Duffy hopes to keep the ride on the Victorian galloper ahead of next month’s rich Wagga Gold Cup.
“This will qualify him for the Wagga Cup, so it will be interesting to see if he gets the 2000m, which I think he will,” Duffy said.
“I haven’t ridden very light for a while, but he might be the motivation (I need) to get back riding a bit light again, because obviously he will get the minimum in the Wagga Cup.
“Hopefully I can ride him there and pretty much continue a good run with the horse.”
Owners Fred and Josie Cavallaro made the trip down from Sydney for the race along with fellow owner Charlie Favara, who travelled from the Central Coast.
They were justifiably confident their galloper would give a good sight.
“He was drawn a bit awkwardly, but as long as he got the right run we thought he might be a class above them,” Mr Cavallaro said.
“And you have to hand it to Jake, it was a great ride.”
The owners also paid credit to Weeding for his efforts in turning the galloper into a handy earner, now with more than $130,000 to his name.
“He wasn’t much of a horse to begin with,” Cavallaro said. “It’s not overstating it to say he was useless earlier in his career.
“But you look at his record now and it’s fantastic.”
The owners say they’ll be back in the region to watch the tilt at the Wagga Cup.
It was a big day for the Gundagai Adelong Race Club, with an eight-race-card keeping racegoers entertained in the cool and damp conditions.