Symon Wilde capped a memorable day at Warrnambool on Tuesday when securing the quinella in the Brierly Steeplechase (3450m) with Kiwi-bred Vanguard edging out a brave Britannicus.
Jockey Aaron Lynch was positive throughout aboard Britannicus, keeping the pace honest, getting out to a 10-length advantage over his rivals.
From the pack, Vanguard took chase and while he was reeling in the runaway leader in the closing stages, the son of Rip Van Winkle had to call on all his staying qualities to slowly eat into Britannicus’ lead in the home straight, finally getting the better of his stablemate with 50m to go.
Wilde, who had saddled three previous winners on the card, including fellow New Zealand-breds Count Zero and Mio Capo, was thrilled with the result and he said he was overawed with the response from the crowd as the pair went toe-to-toe in the straight.
“What a race. I love the spectacle and I love staying horses,” Wilde said.
“Have you ever heard a roar from a crowd? It was like you were at the football, that was magnificent.
“The theatre of that was wonderful.”
Vanguard was initially trained in New Zealand by Kevin “Dummy” Myers for whom he won three of his nine starts.
He showed a talent for jumping in his homeland, winning his sole steeplechase outing, and winning and placing in his two hurdle starts.
He was subsequently sold to clients of Wilde, and they have enjoyed immediate success, with the five-year-old gelding finishing runner-up in his first two Australian outings before winning a steeplechase at Hamilton last month.
“We bought Vanguard to target this carnival and some stable clients jumped in,” Wilde said.
“Everyone is having a lot of fun and I am just so pleased how that worked out.”
Jockey Will Gordon was pleased with the win but admitted he thought he was running for second after the last jump.
“Coming to the second to last I thought ‘I have got him’,” Gordon said.
“He jumped the last okay, but he was just a little slow away and the other horse zipped away from me and I thought ‘we are going to run a nice second here’.
“But he really dug in that last bit. He is a horse on the rise. When he came down that hill and I gave him a squeeze, he came alive.
“It was a great battle. It was a stirring finish, but my lad was just a better stayer.”