CHAMPION jockey Greg Ryan has his sights set firmly on Gilgandra Cup number 10 after writing his name into the record books by winning the 1600m feature for a ninth time yesterday.
Ryan piloted $2.60 favourite Freton to a narrow victory in the $27,000 event, with the meeting run in stifling conditions but on a track that played fair to all horses.
The win was also the final leg of a winning treble for Ryan, who had earlier taken out one of the minor races as well as the Gilgandra Town Plate (1100m) aboard Sugera.
After declaring the Cup a race of two between his mount and Prion Baron ($7.00, Daniel Northey) in the Weekend Liberal, Ryan's prophecy came true as just a head separated the pair on the line, with both runners coming from back in the field.
Orbit, which just over a week prior had won the Macquarie Picnic Cup and started a $26 chance, ran on well for third, just in front of the unlucky Big Black Beauty which sat wide throughout but kicked strongly at her first try in open company.
The win continued Ryan's freakish association with the race which has previously yielded success aboard Top Sodbuster (1995), Satin Reserve (1996), Double The Ton (1998), Northern Glow (2000), Nepelle (2001), Antonia's Magic (2002), Shagny Lover (2004) and General's Sniper (2011).
"It's a fair record when you think about it but I suppose the next thing is to hopefully look forward to number 10," Ryan said after the race.
"I had to work hard for that one, I tell you, because the horse was off the bit and labouring a bit with about 300m to go but he kept coming.
"I thought I'd just got there and over the years I've learned at Gilgandra that when you just think you've got there, and you're on the outside, then you have got there.
"I tracked Prior Baron early and when some of the lesser-performed horses started to tire I wanted to get going so that if Prior Baron got into any trouble I had momentum and would be in front of him."
For trainer Troy Hall, who brought a team of 12 from the Sunshine Coast to Muswellbrook in recent months, the win was a bonus as he prepares the horse for a crack at metropolitan company.
"I want to give him a crack at a no-metro-wins race down there because he deserves his chance but this race fit in nicely and especially being over a mile," Hall said.
"It was worth good money but I'll admit when they went over the line I said "we've got it" but then I had this lingering thought that we'd just been beaten.
"Then Tim Moses came over and said we had it and I was pretty confident then. It was a great ride by Greg and you can see why he's the best jockey in these parts."