Gratz Vella-trained Crucial Witness wins Wagga’s Queen of the South

Gratz Vella with Crucial Witness.

The Queen of the South never fails to provide an enthralling event for racegoers during the Murrumbidgee Turf Club’s Wagga Gold Cup carnival and it was no different on Friday.

The $75,000 feature race, which is open to the best fillies and mares in the region, was taken out by the Gratz Vella-trained Crucial Witness, which put in a truly remarkable effort to beat the big field.

Guided by Tommy berry, the Star Witness mare was forced to race three and four wide after jumping midfield from gate 11. 

Despite the tough run over the 1400m journey, Crucial Witness kept on coming down the Wagga straight, defeating Carnival Miss by 0.89 of a length, while in third and just over a length away was Too Much Lippy.

“It was a tough win,” Vella said.

“Even Tom Berry got off her and said there was nothing much he could do and that it was all her, and that he just kept her comfortable and balanced and she got the job done at the finish. 

“She just kept giving and was strong to the line.”

Vella almost scratched the Canberra galloper from the event after drawing wide, but on the advice of jockey Brodie Loy, he decided to run the mare and he was happy that he changed his mind.  

“I did think she could win, but when I saw the barrier draw, I was half-hesitating and was thinking we might not be going around,” Vella said.

“It was a good field, and in those fields you need every help you can get but the reason I did race her is because Brodie Loy came back after her last run and told me to run her. 

“We were a bit stiff (not to win at Canberra), and he said, ‘don’t hesitate about taking her to the Queen of the South’ and we did.

“She pulled up enormous after the run and I thought we may as well go, and she was good enough to win.”

Vella hopes Crucial Witness can go on with the job now, after winning four times from 17 starts, with the Canberra trainer believing his mare is potentially city class. 

“I think she can win a midweek or maybe something better,” Vella said. 

“Before I spelled her, she had three hard runs on heavy 10 tracks, and she nearly won her start at Canberra before I turned her out.

“I said to the owners, I know we are knocking on the door of a win, but I told them to put her out, as I thought she could give us some good times next prep. 

“It was the right decision and she has come back better and stronger, and if she keeps improving and I look after her, she can win some nice races.”

The Queen of the South was just one of the big races Wagga held on Friday, and on the eight-race Wagga program, the $200,000 Wagga Gold Cup was won by the Chris Waller-trained and Chad Schofield-ridden Aleas over the 2000m journey, beating home Dream Runner for Keith Dryden and Tyler Schiller and in third was Five Kingdom for Matthew Dale and Josh Richards. 

In the $80,000 Murrumbidgee Turf Club Guineas, Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott celebrated another country feature win with Publicist taking out the 1600m race from Manderboss for Barbara Joseph, Paul and Matt Jones and jockey Tim Clark, while in this was This’llbetheone for John O’Shea and Reece Jones. 

For full results from the Wagga two-day Carnival, readers can click here to read about Geoff Duryea’s win in the Wagga Town Plate, or here for Thursday’s Wagga Town Plate meeting, and here for Friday’s Wagga Gold Cup meeting.