Things didn't go exactly to plan in Saturday night's two feature events at Dubbo Paceway as short-price favourites were beaten in both races.
The wet and unseasonably cool weather might have stopped a bumper crowd from attending the 2021 edition of the annual Gilgandra-themed meeting, but those who were trackside witnessed two impressive performances in the night's biggest events.
After back-to-back second-place finishes since arriving in Australia, the Monica Betts-trained Wet Flipflops went one better on Saturday night when finishing over the top of The Runnin Kind ($1.35 favourite) in the Joe Shalhoub Gilgandra Windmill Series Final (2120m), before Bid For Stardom ($1.85) had to settle for third in the Creenaune Family Gilgandra Cup (2120m), as Yarraman Bella scored an eye-catching victory.
Yarraman Bella, trained at the Dubbo track by Lloyd Sutton and driven by his son James, led from start to finish in the cup and after kicking clear at the top of the back straight she went on to win by a convincing 12.7m.
It made it back-to-back wins for the mare following a 14-month spell and it's been the perfect build-up towards the looming Red Ochre Classic series.
"Red Ochre is the plan. We'll send her there and see how she goes," an impressed James Sutton said after Saturday's win.
"She could win in Sydney."
The biggest event on the Dubbo Harness Racing Club calendar, the Red Ochre series begins with heats on Friday, December 10 before the $30,600 final is run a week later.
Yarraman Bella's quality has been clear to see for some time and she went to the paddock midway through last year with a record of five wins and three placings in 15 career starts.
But she's gone to another level since returning, winning by 10m at Blayney on November 14 before cruising as a $3.70 chance on Saturday night.
"The spell has done her really good," Sutton said.
"I pulled up. I eased up on her with 100m to go and if I'd kept up she would have kept ripping away.
"She's got a ton of speed and she's got tougher this time in, she can do a bit of work and still go at the end."
Rock Bottom ($23) ran well to finish second behind Yarraman Bella while the Greg Pay-Tom Pay family team had to settle for third with favourite Bid For Stardom.
Sutton added it was special to win a feature event at his home track and it came after a meaningful victory for the Betts family in the Windmill feature.
Bathurst-based trainer Monica Betts wasn't able to be at the track to witness the victory firsthand but daughter Phoebe, the winning driver, knew it would have meant a lot.
"Mum has got family in Gilgandra so it was really good to win it," Phoebe said.
"She (Wet Flipflops) went really good last week at Parkes and she seems to get better after every run.
"I thought she'd go good but I thought it would be pretty hard to beat the favourite."
The favourite was The Runnin Kind, who had beaten Wet Flipflops by almost 30m at Parkes last time out.
Despite finishing so far back in second, there had been plenty to like about Wet Flipflops' performance there and she took another step forward on Saturday.
After sitting deep in the field for much of the trip, Betts was able to tack onto The Runnin Kind's back on the final lap when the favourite moved forward around the outside.
Wet Flipflops moved three wide around the bend for home and she then powered home and nabbed victory late, edging out The Runnin Kind by a half-neck while Glenlea Hanover ($19) was third.
After having her first 21 career starts in New Zealand, Wet Flipflops now has a win and two seconds in four starts for the Betts family.
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