Most pundits thought only bad luck could beat My Casino Belle in Friday night’s $30,000 Red Ochre Classic Final (2120m) and luckily for trainer-driver Brad Hewitt, there was none forthcoming.
The four-year-old mare was sent out a raging $1.40 favourite on the back of a stunning heat win in track record time nine days prior and a kind draw in barrier three.
And from the time she found the front shortly after the mobile released the field in the final, the race was as good as over.
Having dominated the heats, none of her rivals wanted to take My Casino Belle on in front, and it allowed Goulburn-based Hewitt to dictate the terms of the Group 3 contest.
The pair jogged through the first half of the last mile in splits of 30.4s and 29.6s, setting up a sprint home over the final lap of the showground paceway.
My Casino Belle split the field up with a slick 28.4 third quarter, and by the time the field hit the home turn it was clear the other three runners in contention were jostling for minor positions only.
On the line My Casino Belle had 4.3m to spare from perennial Red Ochre candidate Miss Rodriguez ($24.10, Jason Turnbull), with My Bettor Bella ($6.50, Amanda Turnbull) holding third in front of Lucky Artist ($17.30, Cameron Hart).
The time for the journey was 2:35.5, with a mile rate of 1:58.0, which was good given the cold and rainy conditions.
“I haven’t done much with her since the heat, only because she probably went a bit quicker than I would have liked that night,” Hewitt said after the race.
“But she’s usually a mare that needs some work so it was a balancing act, but she has a good constitution and she’s copping it all pretty well.
“I knew she’d come out of the gates better tonight than she did last week, and once she found the front I was pretty confident nothing would want to take her on after what she did in the heat, so i was pretty comfortable throughout the race.”
The victory took the Bettors Delight (USA) x Lislady (NZ) mare’s record to five wins and 11 placings from 22 starts, with the promise of more to come for the connections, which includes the father of Canberra Raiders captain Jarrod Croker.
“She’s almost the best mare I’ve been involved with, and she’s done most of her racing in group races in Queensland and Victoria, so she’s taken us on a journey,” Hewitt said.
“Getting a win at group level is a great reward for her. I might look at taking her to the Country Series heat at Cowra next weekend now.”
The win was the first Red Ochre success for Hewitt as a trainer but his second as a driver, after he was victorious aboard Freedom Is for Phillip Thurston back in the 2015 edition of the race.