Sydney win for Weir with Big Duke (IRE) and double for Williams

Victorian trainer Darren Weir won his first race in Sydney after Racing NSW stewards’ upheld a protest by Craig Williams riding the stable’s Big Duke (IRE) over Ben Melham on Our Century (IRE) in the $150,000, Group 3 Irresistible Pools & Spas NE Manion Cup (2400m) at Rosehill on Saturday.

Big Duke (54kg) and Our Century (54kg) pulled away from the rest of the field at the top of the main straight and raced side by side, with Big Duke on the outside, for the rest of the trip to the finish.  The margin at the line was a nose and immediately Williams issued a protest.

Our Century (IRE) and Ben Melham (inside) and Big Duke (IRE) and Craig Williams side by side to the line, picture

Williams said in the stewards’ room that Our Century had bumped Big Duke three times in their bid for the line.

“He shifted my horse off course I and I believe moved me out three horses. He has taken me off my racing line and clearly cost my horse the race,” he said.

The Racing NSW stewards’ panel agreed and quickly reversed the placings for the Launceston Cup winner to claim his second race in succession and fourth in his last five starts.

“It is always a relief. You never know what is going to happen in the stewards’ room, interference definitely cost him the race,” said Jarrod McLean, stable representative for the Weir stable.

“He is a fit horse and still on the up. He paraded better today than he did at Launceston so I am really looking forward to being here in two weeks and then a week into the Sydney Cup.”

McLean said that the stable had talked about winning their first race in Sydney.

“It has been the monkey on the back. We have talked about it. There has never been any pressure. We’ve had runners in the Epsom, the Donacaster and they are hard to win. This was a good race to win, a Group 3, and we will be back," he said.

Big Duke will now head to the $300,000, Group 2 Schweppes Chairmans Handicap (2600m) at Randwick on Doncaster Mile Day, April 1st, followed by the $2m, Group 1 Schweppes Sydney Cup (3200m) the following Saturday.

The rest of the field were left to their own devices on the Heavy 10 track with Allergic (Street Cry) (58kg) and William Buick third with the margin 12 1/2L.

The time was 2.34.00 with the final 600m in 36.79 refecting the conditions. Big Duke paid $3.80 on fixed odds and $3.70 on the tote with Our Century the $2.90 favourite.

Big Duke, a five-year-old Raven's Pass gelding out of the Polish Precedent mare Hazarayna, has now won five times from 11 starts and with five placings he has earned stakes of $264,174. He is raced by a large group of Australian Bloodstock clients.

NE Manion Stakes

What the beaten jockeys said:

William Buick (Allergic): “He ran a good race. The front two pulled a long way clear and he just struggled in the ground a little bit.”

Ryan Moore (Kinema): “That was just a little bit too soft for him and he might be better suited going the other way.”

Ben Melham (Our Century): “It was a brave effort. But there is still a bit to be sorted out.”

Tim Clark (Cafe Society): “He just struggled in the heavy conditions second up today.”

Tommy Berry (Shalmaneser): “He just failed to run the trip out on the heavy track. It’s very heavy but it is as safe as you would like.”

Regan Bayliss (Paragon): “Just really plodded in the ground today. He will be better back in grade as well.”

Birthday Card Stakes, photo finish pictures ATC

Williams celebrated the success in the stewards’ room with a clear cut victory on Raiment in the following race, the $150,000, Group 3 TAB Birthday Card Stakes (1200m).

The Godolphin stable Street Cry colt was racing for the first time since January and he was much too fresh for the field and took no notice of the heavy track skipping away to a 3 1/4L win over Samantha and Hieroglyphics a futher 1L away.

The sprinters covered the distance in 1.14.12 with the final 600m in 35.75.

The lightly raced Raiment has now won four of his nine starts and placed in four others earning stakes of $282,885.

Raiment and Craig Williams, picture