CHAMPION Sydney trainer Peter Snowden, who started his career as a jockey and trainer in the Hunter, made a rare appearance at a Newcastle Saturday meeting to saddle up odds-on favourite Varuska, winner of the opening event.
Snowden told the Newcastle Herald on Friday he was confident before the 2000-metre Class I and Maiden Plate in Varuska’s chances, and the mare did not let him down on the Beaumont Track.
Varuska attracted heavy support, firming from $2.50 into $1.55, and the former Kiwi jockey Roy Hutchings produced a gem of a ride.
He settled Varuska in third last place before setting the mare alight at the 600-metre mark, joining the leaders on the home turn.
The favourite took the lead in the home straight and Hutchings had to drag her away from runner-up Equipped.
Varuska was the superior stayer, beating Equipped by three-quarters of a length with Never Been Another finishing third.
“This mare was well placed today after an unlucky second at Kembla Grange last start,” Snowden said.
“She wanted to lay in when she hit the front but Varuska is tough and she was holding the challengers on the line.
“I believe 2200 to 2400 metres will be her best distances and she is bred to be a strong stayer.
“I will probably take Varuska to a midweek metropolitan next and hope the mare will be a Saturday metropolitan stayer.”
Snowden said he loves “coming back home to the Hunter”, adding that “Broadmeadow has been good to me”.
Meanwhile, Irish jockey Robbie Dolan celebrated his first provincial win a day before his 22nd birthday, then copped a week’s suspension from stewards.
Dolan, apprenticed to Sydney trainer Mark Newnham, was aboard the boss’s mare So Hard To Catch in the Benchmark 60 Handicap.
The Irish lad had no hesitation in taking So Hard To Catch to the front from the start, and the $2.60 chance cruised home by two and three-quarter lengths.
Dolan was charged with tightening up Survey’s Legacy in the process of crossing to the lead.
It was the apprentice’s 20th career win, so his claim has been reduced from three kilograms to two.
It was an emotional day for popular Central Coast jockey Paul King, who announced before the meeting that he was retiring from race riding at the end of the day.
King did not ride a winner, but he enjoyed a great career, winning 2000 races, including six group ones.
He rode winners all around the world.
King has accepted a position as consutant for the Hong Kong-based Orbis Bloodstock, who have horses with Kris Lees, Darren Weir, Mick Price, Kim Waugh and Mark Newnham.
Orbis Bloodstock purchased 11 yearlings at the recent Gold Coast Magic Millions sales.
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