There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the Paul Murray-trained Winning Point stormed to victory in Sunday’s $80,000 Bega Cup at the Sapphire Coast Turf Club.
Ridden an absolute treat by Jean Van Overmeire, the aptly named four-year-old raced a little better than midfield on the rails before peeling five wide.
From there, the Kembla Grange galloper was never going to be beaten, finishing vehemently to beat the Mitch Beer-trained Cream Rises (Alysha Collett, $4.20 fav.) in second and the Tyrone Coyle-trained Prince Aurelius (Olivia Chambers, $9) in third.
The result means Winning Point has earned the right to race in the $3 million Big Dance later this year, and in an interview with Sky Racing’s Graeme White following the win, Murray wiped tears from his eyes and was nearly lost for words.
“It was bloody really good,” Murray said.
“We’ve been struggling a bit, but we’re getting back on track.
“That’s what we are after and that race (Big Dance) at the end of the year. We’ll just take her home and give her another run or two, and we’ve got to get ready for this big race now, which is the main thing.
“They say (the Sapphire Coast) is the Randwick of the South, and we’ll be going to Randwick thinking it’s a 2000m, and we’ll be there with bells on.”
It was a mighty training effort, with the Bull Point mare suffering cardiac arrhythmia at her second start this preparation when finishing down the track at Kembla Grange on December 9.
Following a short freshen-up, Winning Point contested the $75,000 Moruya Cup last month, flashing strong to run seventh, beaten just over five lengths by Zouatica.
The Moruya Cup seemingly primed her for the Bega Cup, as she was on song when it mattered most.
“We thought we’d try for this race. I was setting her for the Belle of the Turf, and she was ready, but that’s when she had the heart arrhythmia, and we took a step back,” Murray said.
“Then, with these couple of races, I thought we’d have a crack at it.
“I was really happy with her Moruya run; she came from last at the 200m and ran seventh, and then we set her for this.
“A couple of owners wanted to go to town, and I asked them to have a crack at this race first, and it’s paid off.”
For Van Overmeire, he was just tickled pink to score a big win for a trainer who has supported him through thick and thin.
“Paul is a very good supporter of mine, and he gives me quite a few rides, and I’m just glad to repay him in today’s manner,” Van Overmeire said.
“She ran a brilliant race at Moruya, and the 1400m is probably slightly too short for her, and she has won an easier race over 2000m, and coming to 1400m last start and 1600m today, I said to Paul, she is a great chance and well in it.”
When asked about the race and when he knew he was on the winner, Van Overmeire said it took 1400m to be confident.
“Probably not until the 200m,” he replied.
“At that stage, she was still building into top gear, and she wasn’t electric with her turn of foot.
“I thought, ‘We might get there, we might not’ until she found top gear the last little bit, and she was strong to the line, and she’s only going to keep improving.”
It was a sentimental win for Murray, with Paul’s father, the late Bede Murray, first winning the Bega Cup in 1983 with Stealing and again in 2015 with Life Of Reilly before his passing in 2016.
Beer’s tough stayer lands Sapphire Coast win
On a big day at the Sapphire Coast, which was the second day of their Bega Cup carnival, Mitch Beer went one better in the Sapphire Coast Cup (2200m), with Old Gregg (Alsyha Collett, $4.60) too strong for his rivals in the $50,000 staying event.
The Kembla Grange stayer raced midfield but absolutely stormed to the most impressive win of the day, winning by nearly five lengths from the Theresa Bateup-trained Foxtrot Bravo (Robyn Freeman, $3.60) in second and the Lynne Morrison-trained Rangarush (Molly Bourke, $91) in third.
Joseph Jones Racing score another feature win
In the Bega Sprint (1200m), Barbara Joseph, Paul and Matt Jones won another feature race, with Jake Barrett guiding Zelago to victory in the $50,000 feature sprint.
Moruya galloper Kattegat (Billy Owen, $8) led the field along for Nat Jarvis, but Zelago ($20) found the front at the top of the Sapphire Coast straight and held on for a half-length win from the Mitch Beer-trained Flying Sultan (Alysha Collett, $3.20) while Katteget held on gamely for third when beaten three-quarters of a length.