Andrew Gibbons' winning double on Saturday has the Novocastrian in sight of Newcastle jockeys' premiership leader Christian Reith with three months of the season remaining.
Gibbons, the winner of last season's NSW and Newcastle premierships, has won his hometown title three times. Reith is on top of the leaderboard with 18 wins this season and his closest rivals are Keagan Latham (14) and Gibbons (13).
On Saturday, Gibbons won the opening event, the 2350-metre class 1 and maiden plate, aboard the Greg Hickman-trained Insider Trader.
Heavily backed, Insider Trader ($2.90) was given a peach of a ride by Gibbons one out and one back.
The gelding reached the lead at the top of the straight and he held on to win by half a length.
Hickman, Gunnedah born and bred, spent a couple of years as foreman for Cessnock-based trainer Colleen Underhill many years ago.
The second winner for Gibbons was the Kris Lees-trained Wild Sheila in the 1885m benchmark 68 handicap.
A drifting $12 chance, the mare travelled in the second half of the field before sprinting quickly at the top of the straight on the way to a three-quarters of a length victory.
It was Wild Sheila's third win in 23 starts and she has placed in 10 others for prizemoney of $107,515.
The win elevated Lees to the lead in the Newcastle trainers' premiership with 15 victories, one ahead of Chris Waller.
There was a loud cheer from members of the Newcastle university racing syndicate when the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Too Much Caviar ($6) cruised past the post 4.24 lengths clear of the field in the 1400m maiden handicap.
The university group share in the ownership of the three-year-old All Too Hard-More Caviar gelding.
Australia's best performed maiden, Osamu, finally broke through for a first win when he held on for a tight victory in the 1200m maiden plate.
Osamu was narrowly beaten when a $1.22 favourite at Newcastle on April 15 and went to the barriers on Saturday at $1.14 - one of the shortest-priced favourites in the track's history.
The three-year-old sat outside leader Oakfield Navajo before racing clear halfway down the straight and looked set for an easy win.
However, he only just held on under hard riding from Rory Hutchings to beat the fast-finishing Exterminate by less than half a length.
Formerly with Waller, Osamu is now trained by Annabel Neasham.
Saturday's breakthrough came at his 13th start but the Exceed And Excel gelding had been placed in black-type races. He passed $200,000 in prizemoney with the victory.
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