City Handicap triumph caps off Mitch Beer’s Albury homecoming

Mitch Beer (middle) and Angus Villers (left) backed up their recent win at Kembla Grange with Flying Sultan when taking out Thursday’s $75,000 City Handicap at Albury.
Image: Bradley Photos.

It was his first Albury carnival since moving most of his team from the border to Kembla Grange, but Mitch Beer still enjoyed a good day of results. 

Racing on the first day of the popular two-day Southern Districts carnival, the stable took out the $50,000 Super Maiden (1400m) with Suspect (Nick Souquet, $4.60) before winning the $75,000 City Handicap (1175m) with Flying Sultan (Angus Villiers, $4.20).

“Normally, I would have 12 runners on the first day of the Albury carnival, and I’d be flat-out winning two,” Beer laughed when talking to NSW Country and Picnic Racing.

“So, it’s nice to come here today with two runners and leave with two winners.

“We’ve still got a team of 14 here in work, and it is great to come down and spend a few days at the stable and catch up with staff. 

“The team is working hard down here, and they generally get them up and racing before we send them to Kembla, so it’s really good to have the team involved and to get a bit of success for all their hard work.”

The City Handicap headlined Thursday’s meeting, and Villiers stole the show with an excellent ride on Flying Sultan. 

Awkwardly drawn in gate 13, Villiers drove the five-year-old to the front before dictating proceedings. 

Despite recent Southern Districts qualifier winner Bianco Vilano (Tyler Schiller, $4) finishing strongly, Flying Sultan hung on to win by a nose, while nearly two lengths back in third was the Doug Gorrel-trained Asgarda (Kayla Nisbet, $3.20).

Beer was quick to heap praise on his 1.5kg claiming apprentice, who’s won back-to-back races on the in-form sprinter. 

“The last two rides the kid has rode him have been phenomenal,” Beer said. 

“He rode him perfectly today, and he’s come along so well. 

“He has been with me 12 months to the day. He started riding work here at Albury and was living in a spare room out the back, and now he’s won a City Handicap.”

Beer captured the 2022 City Handicap with his star sprinter Mnementh, so the race holds a special place in the trainer’s heart. 

“It’s great to win; it’s one of the biggest races in the area,” Beer said. 

“The winner of the City Handicap is generally up and about in a (Wagga) Town Plate, and we’ll see where he goes from here.” 

Since Beer moved a large chunk of his team to Kembla Grange, the Flying Artie gelding has been a different horse. 

After finishing second in the Moruya Town Plate (1010m) in December, Flying Sultan ran third to Delexo in a 1100m Benchmark 72 Midway Handicap at Randwick in January and second to Zelago in the Bega Sprint (1200) in February.

Late last month, Villiers hopped on for the first time, and they won the 1200m Benchmark 64 Handicap at Kembla Grange before making it six career wins in Thursday’s City Handicap. 

“His form since going to Kembla has been great; he must have improved 20 benchmark points,” Beer said. 

“He’s relished the change, and there are a few key things to him. He has had his fair share of issues, and the different tracks to work him on help. 

“Plus, we have a fantastic vet that has really done some terrific things to manage his soundness, so it has been a big team effort with a horse like him that isn’t straightforward to train.”

Beer will be back in action on the second day of the carnival, with Luna Rocks taking on the 1000m Class Two Handicap. 

Villiers is in the saddle, and from gate six, connections are confident the four-year-old can run a big race. 

“She trialled enormous here at Albury,” Beer said. 

“She is going really well, and I expect her to run a good race, but Ron Stubbs’ horse (Rumours Abound) will be hard to beat.”

It was an action-packed meeting at Albury, and in the $50,000 Albury Mile (1600m), the Tim Donnelly-trained Cliff House (Danny Beasley, $2.25) won by a half-length from the Ron Stubbs-trained Baledon (Jason Lyon, $3.90) while three-and-a-half lengths back in third was the Barbara Joseph, Pasul and Matt Jones-trained One Aye (Blaike McDougall, $10).