By David Nagel
Pakenham trainer Sunny Reeve trained her first winner all the way back in 1994 – but the veteran horsewoman still gets an exhilarating kick from being first past the winning post.
And Reeve may well have a smart commodity on her hands after her five-year-old gelding Licorice Prince gave her a huge thrill with a devastating debut victory in the $25,000 Maiden Plate (1000m) at Pakenham last week.
“It was great wasn’t it,” an excited Reeve told Racing.com after the race.
“I’ve been doing this forever and I’ve never got over the excitement…it’s bloody amazing.”
Reeve purchased the well-named son of Master of Design/Cinnamon Sticks for just $5,000…but there were a few issues to consider.
“I went to have a look at him and he had a damaged foot, and I thought we could fix that, but I was a bit worried he was too small,” Reeve explained.
“But we gave him plenty of time, the foot’s ok, and he grew.”
The gelding might also grow into one of Reeve’s best horses, running 59.25 seconds for the five-furlong trip, just .01 outside the time of The Mobot, who won the BenchMark-64 on the same program.
Licorice Prince entered his debut race off the back of an impressive trial win on August 31, where jockey Arron Lynch gave him a slight squeeze over the concluding stages to race away from his opposition.
Lynch rode the first-starter like a good thing, keeping him out of trouble, four and five wide the trip, before powering away for impressive debut performance.
Reeve said she knew there was a motor under the bonnet, but was surprised with the ease of the two-length victory.
“We knew there was a bit of talent there, but I’m actually pretty thrilled at how much talent was in there today,” she said, before explaining she had no immediate plans for the gelding.
“I’ve got no idea (where he goes next), he gets lots of apples to eat tonight, and lots of time to get over it.”
Reeve said she is proud of her small team, with all three of her horses giving her some huge thrills this year.
“I’ve got him (Licorice Prince), and I’ve just brought another horse back in, who has run second, and the only other one in the team has won two, so that’s not a bad little team is it.”
Lynch, who has a strong connection with the Reeve stable, said he was also impressed with the victory.
“We weren’t overly confident but we knew there was a nice horse there,” Lynch explained.
“I trialled him last week and Sunny said, ‘What do you reckon’, and I said yeah find a race, he’s ready to go now, and he showed us today that’s he got some ability too.
“As we were coming into the straight, I still had a fairly good hold on him. I knew then it would take a bit for something to come from behind and run me down.
“It’s good to ride a winner for Sunny, she’s been putting me on a bit when she has runners and it’s good to get a winner for her today.”
Locals had a good day at the meeting transferred from Bairnsdale, with Shane Stockdale adding to his recent scrapbook of winners when his four-year-old gelding Gdansk led all the way to win the $25,000 BenchMark 58 Handicap over 1200 metres.
Formerly trained by leading Queensland trainer Toby Edmonds, Gdansk was having just his second start for Stockdale after running last at Pakenham on August 27.
Jockey Thomas Stockdale, Shane’s nephew, said a change of riding tactics was the key to last week’s success.
“The horse has got a few issues with wanting to lay in during the run, and it really hampers his finish when he gets caught up in traffic, and has to work around them,” Thomas explained.
“The plan today was to go straight to the top, and just ride our race on our terms, and to have that bit of paint (rail) to follow into the home straight.
“It proved the winning move in the end.”
The winning jockey said there was improvement left in Gdansk and that another trip to the winner’s stall may be just around the corner.
“I think so, the key to this horse is just to draw well and try and dictate up front,” Thomas said.
“When we do that, we don’t see the horse hang in as bad, so I think that’s the way to ride the horse and hopefully we can get the chocolates again soon.”
The son of Dissident/Private Show found something late to win by one-and-a-half lengths on the line. Stockdale was the leading jockey on the day, scoring a winning double after saluting on the Bevan Laming-trained Just Wishing in the last race on the card.
And champion trainer Peter Moody made it a huge day for Pakenham trainers when his exciting three-year-old colt He’s The Ultimate treated his rivals with contempt in the 1200-metre Maiden Plate.
The son of Fastnet Rock/Spirit of Heaven was significantly down in grade, having two runs in Listed company in the autumn before returning to the track with a solid fifth at Sandown on August 25.
Jockey Luke Nolen took no chances on the $2.40 race favourite, racing three wide the trip before striding clear at the 300-metre post for a decisive five-length victory.
“We removed luck from the equation, he was very good, but I don’t know where he goes off the back of that,” Nolen said post-race.
“I still think he’s going to be an autumn three-year-old more so than the spring, so we’ll probably pick around the edges at this stage.
“But he’s a maiden winner now and from a pretty good family too, and they get better as they get older as well.”
The training partnership of Ciaron Maher and David Eustace shared bragging rights with Thomas Stockdale, training a winning double with The Mobot and Mystique Falcon.