He may have one eye on the riches of the Country Championships but it was a benchmark 55 event at Dubbo Turf Club on Thursday which left Mudgee trainer David Smith over the moon.
Smith was delighted to see Valknut return to winning ways in the Kennards Hire Site Equipment race over 1400m, the gelding continuing his trend of producing his best when fresh.
Thursday marked the four-year-old’s first start since December 30 and Jake Pracey-Holmes booted him home along the outside to make it three wins in 12 career starts.
“I’m absolutely rapt,” Smith said.
“The owners were starting to lose a little bit of patience but I told them to just hold off because he’s got a tonne of ability and we just had to get him right and today was the day.
“I think he really needs the firm track … he’s had a couple of niggling issues with his back legs and he lost the drive through his back end and I think we’ve just figured out he’s a horse best kept fresh. He’s a big strong horse so being fresh and having a mile or mile-and-a-half doesn’t hurt.”
Smith stated Valknut’s mentality and attitude is not where it should be, stating “for a four-year-old he’s still a big kid” and Pracey-Holmes was kept busy controlling his mount behind the barriers and then again when returning to the mounting yard.
But the winning trainer had nothing but praise for the ride stating Pracey-Holmes got Valknut “within striking range at the right time”.
The ride was a perfect one, as Valknut sat last early on and then was still a long way back as the field rounded the bend for home.
Uncle Wingnut ($18) had led early but faded in the straight as hometown hopes Nordic Noir ($3.30), Eyesaw ($2.90 favourite) and Cuban Lass ($7) moved forward.
With 200m to go Pracey-Holmes and Valknut still had plenty to do but it was no issue as an immense final surge sealed a two-length win.
The Garry Lunn-trained Cuban Lass beat Darren Hyde’s Eyesaw for second.
“He spotted the camera on the way out and that was the end of him, he lost the plot and couldn’t regain his composure so I’m surprised he traveled as well as he did after that but he traveled well down the back and unleashed a big finish,” Smith said.
Smith is likely to race at Bathurst on Monday while Bel Diablo and Stilletoed Vixed are set to feature in the $150,000 Central Districts Country Championships heat at Mudgee on February 25.