Flashy grey gelding Mandalong Tapit was a popular winner in the $50,000 Mornington at Tamworth on Friday, with the six-year-old finishing strongly when taking out the 2100m feature.
Trained locally by Sue Grills and ridden by Will Pike, the big crowd was up and cheering the stunning Tapit gelding, as he held off Onemore Sapphire (Tracey Bartley/Aaron Bullock) and Foodie King (Michael Mullholland/Serg Lisnyy).
Mandalong Tapit finished sixth behind Foodie King in the Prelude only 11 days earlier but following a drop in weight and a better draw, Grills explained that she was always confident her galloper would run a big race.
“He was tough the other day with 61kg, and he drew wide, and today he was back to 55.5kg and with that run under his belt, and you know, I thought he would be hard to beat,” Grills said.
Pike was at his best at Tamworth, riding a treble on the Showcase program, and Grills said she didn’t have to offer the champion Western Australian jockey any instructions.
“I said, ‘you do what you think – he should be handy’, but I left it all up to him and it was a perfect ride,” Grills said.
“He had the run of the race all the way and he just exposed him at the right time.”
Mandalong Tapit is unsurprisingly a popular commodity with punters, and Grills was just happy to land the win for connections, and owner Henry Pisaturo.
“Everyone loves him; he is just a stunning animal and it’s so good. Henry has been a great client to me and it’s great to win with him,” Grills said.
Pike was pleased with the run too, and he believed the weight drop helped a lot.
“The trainer was quietly confident and with the weight drop, we’d be right in it,” Pike said.
“Obviously, the horse has been in good form, and he is holding his form well and he did a good job.”
It was a huge day of racing at Tamworth on Friday, and the Michael, Wayne and John Hawkes team won the $200,000 Tamworth Cup with Bandersnatch, who was ridden by Brenton Avdulla.
The Sydney galloper was just too strong, winning by a length from the Cam Crockett-trained and Brooke Stower-ridden Constant Flight in second and Fender in third for trainer Bett Cavanough and jockey Grant Buckley.
Team Hawkes representative Brooke Bergen was proud of Bandersnatch, who carried the house with 62kg when taking out the Tamworth Cup.
“Full credit to him (with) 62kg. It’s a great feat for him and he’s done well today,” Bergen said.
“There were a few really handy horses in it, and we are proud as punch with him today.”
Avdulla praised team Hawkes for having the five-year-old ‘cherry ripe’ for Tamworth’s feature race.
“Full credit to team Hawkes. They had him cherry ripe today,” Avdulla said.
“He had a nice day out the other day and got back and relaxed good and did everything right (in the Star Kingdom Stakes) because he is not an easy horse to ride, and it just set him up well today, even with the big weight, and I was always confident from a long way out.
“He has got good genuine Group 2 and Group 3 form and he won with 59kg on his back in a stakes race, and getting beaten by four lengths by a horse like Lost and Running is solid form for a race like this.”
Avdulla said connections would now eye the $2 million The Big Dance following his victory.
“I am happy for the owners. We are looking forward to getting to Melbourne Cup Day (for The Big Dance) and hopefully he gets the mile,” Avdulla said.
In the other feature race on the day, Mook’s Sister made it back-to-back wins in the Jardel Cup for trainer Troy O’Neile and jockey Mikayla Weir.
The four-year-old was a class above her rivals too, winning easily from the Cody Morgan-trained Majestic Wings (Bailey Wheeler) and Stirling Osland-trained Deep Mirror (Aaron Bullock).
For full Tamworth results, click here.