Experienced hoop Jake Pracey-Holmes paid homage to the late Lee Van Den Bos at Dubbo Turf Club on Friday afternoon after steering Cat Walk Queen to victory in the second of the nine-race program, the Adors Part Hire Maiden Handicap (1620 metres).
"That was for Lee," he said, delivering the heartfelt tribute just moments after saluting in a photo finish on board the five-year-old mare.
Van Den Bos, a Towac Park stalwart who juggled the rigours of training with her work in special support for young men with intellectual and behavioural issues, died in late May following a long battle with illness, leaving the Orange and regional racing communities in mourning.
She worked as a team with husband Alex who has now taken the stables' reins on his own, and Friday's victory was the first since.
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As Pracey-Holmes said Cat Walk Queen was always a favourite of Van Den Bos', so in her 22nd career start he was stoked to be able to steer her to a maiden win, which came after a string of minor placings at Bathurst and Dubbo.
"Lee loved this horse and it's great for [her] to break through, and great for Alex as well," Pracey-Holmes said.
Cat Walk Queen jumped from barrier six as a $3.40 favourite in the $22,000 maiden, and Pracey-Holmes immediately worked her to the front of the pack along the rails.
At the 400 mark she'd pulled a length-and-a-half ahead of the chasing pack without expending too much effort and looked like she'd cruise, before Lindsey Kennedy's Egyptian Pharoah ($5) started eating into the margin.
The pair were neck-and-neck heading into the straight and as Connie Grieg's Get Up Albie ($3.50) loomed as well Cat Walk Queen streaked across the track to the wide lane and just held on, eventually finishing a nose in front of Kennedy's gelding.
"She kept sticking her head out and she stuck it out at the right time," Pracey-Holmes said.