Wagga trainer Chris Heywood will push ahead with plans to take Mitchell Road to the city this campaign after an impressive victory in the Blackwoods 2016 Christmas Gift Handicap (1200m) at Wagga on Saturday.
Heywood’s stable star defied a betting drift to hang on for an all-the-way victory for jockey Lily Coombe at Murrumbidgee Turf Club.
As short as $1.80 early, Mitchell Road was virtually unwanted in betting and started a $3.40 favourite.
Carrying 58.5kg (after Coombe’s claim), Mitchell Road held on to win by a length-and-a-half from Swan Hill galloper Welsh Poet ($6) and Trevor Sutherland’s Willy White Socks ($4.40).
Second up from a spell, he looked home halfway up the straight before giving connections some anxious moments.
“He was a bit soft and he showed it too that last 100 but he was still good enough to beat them,” Heywood said.
“He’s a good horse. But I knew that he was soft.
“He’s always been a good horse and we want to get back to town now.
“We want to try and win a race in town with him this prep so that’s where we’re aiming.”
Heywood intends to head to Sydney “next start or the one after”.
The galloper provided a huge thrill for the stable and Wagga owners, the Cheney family, back in April, when he finished seventh in the $500,000 Country Championships Final (1400m) at Randwick.
That trip was apprentice Coombe’s first visit to the famed Sydney track, after the pair had finished second in the Southern Districts qualifier.
ALL THE WAY: Jockey Lily Coombe enjoys her first win on Mitchell Road which held on to claim the Christmas Handicap at Wagga on Saturday.
Back in grade on the Riverside track at Wagga was another highlight.
“It was good to finally get a win on him,” Coombe said.
“Obviously he was my Championships ride last year and he was my first ride in Sydney so he was already special but it was good to finally get one on the board.
“The easy lead obviously helped him out a lot and the step back in class was exactly what he needed. But he’s feeling super.”
It was Mitchell Road’s fifth win in 26 starts – and second in his last four – helping ease the heartache around a horse which had 11 seconds in his first 20 starts.
Heywood confirmed another tilt at one of the feature races of the Wagga Gold Cup carnival will be the aim in the autumn.
“The Town Plate was always his go,” he said. “We’ve always wanted to have a crack at the Town Plate so we’ll see how we go.”
The victory completed a good month for Heywood with the stable enjoying a win at each of the last four meetings at Wagga.
It also capped a good week for Coombe after a double on Griffith Cup day following her return from a foot injury suffered at Wentworth on Melbourne Cup day.