It was a thrilling finish fitting such an evenly-contested race but by the end of Friday’s McDonalds Spicy Shaker Fries Dubbo and Wellington Benchmark 55 (1010m) few were arguing Panuara wasn’t a worthy winner.
In a sight rarely seen, the top six in the betting market were all within an astonishing $1.50 of each other and the open feel around the race was proved when the field spread across the track in the last few hundred metres.
But it was Panuara ($6.50), trained at Orange by Alison Smith, who managed to get the bob of the head and win in a photo from Billy Bent Ear ($4.80) and Ennazus ($4.80) while Drummed Out ($10) was close by in fourth.
After finishing second in his past two starts at Cowra and Dubbo, Smith was delighted to see Panuara salue again.
“I thought he had it when I watched it and thought he lunged on the line,” Smith said of the photo finish when talking to Sky Thoroughbred Central.
“He’s only a little fella and he had to carry the big weight of 59 (kilograms). He’s going really well in his past three starts and I’m pretty proud of him.”
Winning jockey Anthony Cavallo wasn’t so sure of the result after Billy Bent Ear flashed home on the outside.
“I thought I got beat,” Cavallo said with a smile.
“It was a tussle all the way down the straight … but he’s a tough little bugger. He’s a consistent little bugger and he keeps getting cheques and that’s the main thing.”
Panuara hasn’t run worse than second since Smith applied a tongue tie after an 11th placed finish at Bathurst four starts back.