They say TAB Highway Handicaps can be some of the hardest races to win, with the weekly $120,000 race drawing on the best country-trained horses from all regions of the state.
On Saturday, metropolitan racing moved to Newcastle, and the Garry Lunn-trained Knife’s Edge put on an absolute galloping exhibition in the 1600m Class Three Highway Handicap.
After beginning slowly from gate 12 for Jason Collett, the six-year-old found the rail and sat third from last for the first 800m of the event before making a move.
Collett stuck to his guns and glided through along the running rail as the big field turned for home, and with 250 metres left in the race, Knife’s Edge ($26) went to the front before exploding away for a four-length victory, beating the Mick Smith-trained Radiohead (Jay Ford, $7.50) in second, while 5.64 lengths away in third was the Glen Milligan-trained Vicky’s One (Ash Morgan, $100)
Lunn, who trains out of Dubbo, wasn’t worried about his horse’s price, explaining that he sent his galloper to town expecting a bold showing.
“It was a good price, and I know the owners had some on him; I thought he’d be hard to beat, and that’s why I sent him,” Lunn said.
“It’s the first Highway I’ve won, and he’s probably the first horse I’ve had for a while that is good enough to go in a Highway, and I’ve only taken three horses to Sydney in the last 10 or so years, and I’ve come away with a third, a second, and now a win.
“I wasn’t going down there for the day out, or to make up the numbers; we were going there to win.”
According to Lunn, Collett was impressed with the Warrior’s Reward gelding.
“I just told Jason, if you get any luck, he will be there when the whips are cracking, and that’s what happened and he rang me up after the races, and he said he had a lap full of horse left; he gave him a bit of a rap after the win,” Lunn said.
Lunn, who has trained some champion gallopers over the years, such as multiple Group winner Ateates, wasn’t on hand to watch the win, explaining that a fellow Dubbo trainer carted his horse to the races.
“I only had one going, and Clint Lundholm was going there, and he knows one of the owners James Carolan, and he said he could take it there for me,” Lunn said.
“They left Saturday morning and came straight home after the races. He was in perfect condition, and I reckon I could race him today.”
Knife’s Edge looks an improving type for Lunn, and following stints with Cindy Alderson and co-owner Luke Morgan, he looks to have found his mojo with the Dubbo stable, starting twice and winning twice, with his Highway Handicap victory following on from a dominant win in a 1400m Class Two Handicap at Dubbo on Melbourne Cup day.
“Luke had him, and he told me he didn’t want to sell him, and he’s breaking all those horses in, and he doesn’t have time for a stayer, and I know James Carolan, and his father Peter Carolan, and it worked out pretty good when they sent him here,” Lunn said.
“He is a casual horse, and beautiful to do anything with, and easy to ride and he’s really got no problems.”
Connections are now setting their up-and-coming stayer for the $150,000 Country Classic at Rosehill Gardens on November 26, and Lunn is convinced the 2000m will be ideal for Knife’s Edge.
“In a couple of weeks there is the Country Classic over 2000m,” Lunn said.
“We know he is good enough. They had four races over the mile there at Newcastle on Saturday and he was the second quickest all day.
“The horse is improving, and he will get better over more ground.”
Knife’s Edge will come up against some handy types in town though, with trainers all over NSW setting their country stayers for the Country Classic.