Port Stephens breeder and former mayor Bruce Mackenzie continued his successful season with winners at Newcastle and Eagle Farm on Saturday.
Mackenzie's lightly raced four-year-old Oakfield Hiawatha stepped up in grade at Newcastle Racecourse when he contested the 1300-metre class 1 handicap.
The gelding won a Muswellbrook maiden on February 8 and was an $8.50 chance in a much stronger race on Saturday.
Welshman Ashley Morgan has ridden Oakfield Hiawatha in all three starts and he adopted daring tactics on the horse at Newcastle.
He allowed the Wyong-trained galloper to set up a three-length lead soon after the start. The 17-hand giant wasn't challenged until halfway down the straight and, under hard riding, he held the challengers off to win by a quarter of a length.
Trainer Kristen Buchanan was elated with the win and said Oakfield Hiawatha still has so much to learn about racing.
"He has untapped ability and is so laidback," Buchanan said.
"He is 17 hands and 612 kilograms, but he is a big baby.
"I didn't expect Oakfield Hiawatha to be cruising along three lengths ahead of the field. However, I trust Ashley's judgement and my instructions were to put the horse where he was comfortable.
"I will discuss with Bruce about having a crack at the Provincial Championship series but it may have come up too early for the horse.
"Bruce has been a good supporter for four or five years and he has three to five horses in my stable at any one time."
Mackenzie's other Wyong trainer, Damien Lane, sent the owner's six-year-old mare Oakfield Muscle to Eagle Farm and she finished strongly to win a benchmark 80 handicap. She has now won $378,230 on the track. Mackenzie paid $450,000 for a Zoustar filly at the recent Inglis Classic Sale.
In-form jockey Keagan Latham, now with 55 winners this season, was the most successful at Newcastle on Saturday with a double.
He won consecutive races on the Gary Portelli-trained Ballistic Moon in the 900m maiden handicap and Provide in the 1400m maiden handicap.
The James Cummings-trained Vucetich again showed his liking for the Newcastle track with a last-to-first performance in the 1500m benchmark 64 handicap. A clear last to leave the barriers, Vucetich raced away in the straight to win by one and a third lengths.
Craig Kerry reports: Singleton apprentice Mikayla Weir qualified her second horse for the $500,000 Country Championship final when Subtle Grey was second on Sunday at Scone in the transferred Mid North Coast heat.
Charmmebaby, for trainer Bob Milligan, cruised to victory and the Allan Kehoe-trained Subtle Grey stuck on well for second to also qualify.
Weir was second on the John Shelton-trained Tara Jasmine in the Coffs Harbour heat behind Baileys. Art Cadeau and Leg Work are others qualifiers.
Weir, who comes out of her apprenticeship this month, also leads the Racing NSW Rising Stars series with only the final at Canterbury on Friday night remaining.
She has a seven-point lead on boom first-season Newcastle apprentice Dylan Gibbons and needs only to get a ride in the last race on Friday night to claim the title.
Also at Scone, Newcastle trainer Kris Lees and jockey Andrew Gibbons had a winning double with Justitia and Sequana.
On Saturday, Ventura Ocean made an exciting debut for Lees and owners Australian Bloodstock when he held off the Cody Morgan-trained Wrens Day at Eagle Farm in a class 3 plate (1200m).
The former English galloper had not raced since June last year but trialled twice in January. The five-year-old gelding, a winner three times in the UK, was strong late to prevail by a neck from Wrens Day, which is also syndicated by Australian Bloodstock.
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