In a thrilling three-way finish, the Michelle Ritchie-trained Blue Missile led the big field into the straight and with Jess Taylor in the saddle, the local runner looked the winner with only 50m to go.
The 1400m journey proved a stride too far though, with the Luke Clarke-trained Testator Silens ($6) getting his nostrils in front for Jean Van Overmeire, beating the Tash Burleigh-trained To The Nines (60/1) for Jordy Mallyon, while only 0.3 of a length away in third was Blue Missile (25/1).
Testator Silens – trained on a farm just outside of Braidwood – has now won five from six including the $150,000 qualifier and will vie for Country Championships riches at Royal Randwick on April 2.
“There are quite a few excited people; a lot of people follow him and have a bet on him,” Clarke told Sky Racing after the win.
Clarke, who at first conceded defeat, was ultimately pleased with the result, but more than anything, he was simply so proud of his tough and uncompromising galloper.
“It’s great. I thought, ‘yeah, he’s run well, he run third out there’, but I’m stoked for everyone; it’s a great,” Clarke said.
“After 400m, Jean got him into fifth out there and I knew he’d put in. That is what he always does; he just puts in.
“I couldn’t be happier; I’m shaking, it’s great.”
In his short but stellar career, the four-year-old has proven he is a fighter, registering dogged TAB Highway Handicap wins at Rosehill and Randwick prior to his win at Nowra on Sunday.
“That’s the sort of horse he is,” Clarke said.
“He will keep putting in and putting in, it doesn’t matter what’s going on.”
The Star Witness gelding is somewhat of a rogue before his races, and Clarke said it wasn’t him misbehaving, but more him showing everyone that he is ready and raring to race.
“He is tough and arrogant. It is not that he is mad; he just wants to get on with the job (and) he loves it doing it,” Clarke said.
“He is big and strong and that is why he good.”
NSW Country and Picnic Racing has documented the rise of Testator Silens, and while the big gelding did spend time with the likes of Joe Pride and Keith Dryden, Clarke said the horse was suited to the quite life in the country.
“I got him off Danny McMillan. He bred him and he is a home bred,” Clarke said.
“He went through a couple of other trainers, but he didn’t settle into the environment there, and I’ve done a bit of work for Danny over the years, and he sent him over and we gave him a go.
“He likes the quiet environment and being in the paddock with no one around and what I’m doing with him works.
“I don’t gallop him, and he gets most of his work at home and actually doesn’t go to the track anymore.
“The only time he goes to the track is when he goes to Moruya for jump outs.”
Clarke is now in unchartered territory, and with the Country Championships final at Royal Randwick fast approaching on April 2, Clarke said he would sit back and consider his options before committing Testaor Silens to another run before the final.
“I will sit down and let the dust settle and go from there,” Clarke said.
Jockey Jean Van Overmeire, who will ride the Braidwood galloper in the final, has partnered him four times, including his previous three wins, and despite the gun ride, he deflected all praise back to Clarke and his training efforts.
“He obviously has a lot of talent, but first things first; all credit to Luke,” Overmeire said.
“He is a great horseman. He said the 1400m would be no drama, where I had my doubts, and obviously Luke was proven to be right.”
Testator Silens had it all to do from gate 13, and Overmeire was able to get into a good spot early in the race.
“We got a nice run in the race, and he just travelled beautifully,” Overmeire said.
“He was nice and kind today and the 10-day back up is just ideal for him.
“What he showed there is quite promising.”
In a very popular result, Tash Burleigh will prepare yet another Country Championship finalist, with To The Nines finishing second to Testator Silens.
Jordy Mallyon got the 60/1 shot into a good position from the wide gate and despite turning for home three-wide, the pair dug deep to finish second, earning their way into the $500,000 final.
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