FOUR-YEAR-OLD Grafton mare Duelling Goddess broke her maiden status at her fifth start with an impressive victory in Saturday’s Irrigation Warehouse Group Maiden Plate (1400m) at Deepwater.
A full sister to Two Times A Lady, winner of six races, the winner was purchased in New Zealand by trainer Jo Methven and partner Dean Smith.
Regional, trained at Ballina by Danny Bowen, was taken straight to the front by Marlon Dolendo and opened up a handy lead mid-race before the gap narrowed in the climb to the turn.
Regional was still giving plenty of cheek on straightening but Glenn Lynch gradually gained the upper hand on Duelling Goddess which proved too strong in the run to the line and prevailed by a half length with a further 1.75 lengths to topweight and favourite, Nazar’s Pride (Matthew Paget for Wayne Oakenful).
Methven said the winner had taken some time to learn what racing was all about.
“I’m very happy with her. We’ve given her some time and with blinkers on she knows what it’s about.
“It’s good to bring her to these small country tracks to learn. We will step her up to a mile now and just work through the distances.
“There’s a lot more races over a distance for her now she’s in Class 1 and she will eventually get a mile and a half (2400 metres),” she said.
Former Group 1 rider Lynch handled the winner superbly and is a fan of the horse.
“Glenn has ridden her before and likes her,” said Methven who previously worked for big-name trainer Grahame Rogerson and strapped some of his Group 1 winners before embarking on her own training career.
It was a good day for Methven and Dean Smith as he also trained a winner, Mr Giggles.
The gelding had backed up from Glen Innes where he had won and made it two wins in seven days when successful in the Deepwater Rural Supplies CRT Jack Lynch Memorial Benchmark 45 Handicap.
Dean Smith’s father, Stan Smith, said before the race they would love to win the race as the late Jack Lynch had been a great friend.
He had to wait a little longer than anticipated as ambulance officers attended a racegoer in the crowd but when the race began Mr Giggles was restrained by jockey Darren Jones to settle fourth on the fence.
Jones tracked the leaders until approaching the turn where he moved to the outside and put in a strong burst.
Mr Giggles was in front on straightening and looked the winner but apprentice Codey Hughes challenged strongly on runner-up Borayme (trained by Ken Martin at Armidale).
Jones did not knock Mr Giggles around and had enough in hand for a short neck margin to Borayme with Lea Selby’s Little Adia (apprentice Patrick Lo) 4.5 lengths back in third place.
“We’re having a lot of fun with this horse,” Stan Smith said.
“He’s only a pony but really tries.
“That’s his final run this time in and I hope he grows a bit during his spell.
The four-year-old was a joint acceptor but connections decided to contest the Memorial instead of the Cup.
Mr Giggles ran the 1400m journey in 1min 23.89secs, somewhat quicker than Peaceful Belle’s 1min 24.29secs in the Cup two races later.
While Peaceful Belle won the Cup, Glen Innes Cup winner, Seen Im, bled from both nostrils and was immediately retired by his trainer Sandra McCormack.
While they attended to him, his stablemate, Status King, who had not started since winning at Deepwater last year, returned to win the Local Business Houses Benchmark 45 Handicap (1200m) a half hour after the Cup.
It was a belated success to brighten a sad day for the Armidale owner-trainers and it was also the last race of the day with rain forcing the sixth and final race of the day to be abandoned.