The old phrase goes that patience is a virtue, and that couldn’t ring any truer at Royal Randwick on Saturday as Blow Dart prevailed in the $120,000 Class Three Highway Handicap.
Trained in Gulgong by Brett Thompson, the five-year-old had made his fair share of trips to town when heading into Saturday’s country-restricted event, which included 11 previous attempts in Highway Handicaps.
The ever-consistent Denman gelding had never been too far away either.
After winning three of his first five starts in 2021, notching victories at Dubbo, Mudgee, and Newcastle, Thompson turned his attention to the popular Highway Handicaps.
Blow Dart had previously placed in six of them before his well-deserved win at headquarters.
Ridden by Regan Bayliss, he kept up the excellent form of Western and Central District Racing Association horses in recent Highways, powering to a good win.
Blow Dart ($9) bounced out of gate seven but couldn’t find the rail, with the Brett Dodson-trained Swift Charm (Matthew Bennett, $6) kicking up on the inside to lead.
Turning for home, it became a heavyweight battle as the pair went punch-for-punch for the full 12 rounds of the Royal Randwick straight, but Blow Dart won by a long neck, while in third and a half-a-length off the winner was the Matthew Dale-trained Acapella Sun (Amy McLucas, $7).
“We’ve always known he is good enough,” Thompson told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“There was a bit of pressure from a few owners to go back to the country and try and win a country race, but as I said, ‘$13,000 for a country win and cop five or six benchmark points, or a win in town?”
When asked why Saturday was the day of all days, Thompson said a mixture of bad draws while running into the likes of Emperor, Proverbial, Ten Bells, and Penthouse meant his galloper had to wait for his turn in the spotlight.
“He’s just been unlucky,” Thompson said.
“Every time we drew a field we could beat, he drew the outside, and in those good Highways, how many good ones has he run into?
“He’s come up against a lot of good horses, and he ran second in a Saturday race that got shifted to Gosford, and it’s just been a mixture of bad gates and big weights.
“On Saturday, he drew reasonable, got done to 58.5kg, and was very gallant; when the other horse (Swift Charm) headed him, he fought back and beat it.”
It’s no mean feat travelling from Gulgong to Sydney, but Thompson has had some help.
“Normally, we go the day before,” Thompson said.
“We’ll stay at Peter Snowden’s place, and he has always helped us out whenever we’ve needed a stable, or we’ve stayed at Gerald Ryan’s at Rosehill, and it’s been good to have that support.
“It was good, as Pete was one of the first blokes to message me after the win.”
Connections, which includes owners from Gulgong, Mudgee, and Brisbane, have always had an opinion of Blow Dart.
“The reason why it has taken so long to win another race with him is because he was so successful as a young horse, and his benchmark was pretty high,” Thompson said.
“We knew from day one that he was going to be good, and ever since we breezed him up, we knew this horse could gallop.
“He was a cheap horse at the Magic Millions and only cost us $30,000, but he’s averaging $10,000 a start, and there aren’t many that can do that.”
Thompson and connections will continue to head back to Sydney with Blow Dart,
“We’ll go back down to town and look for a Benchmark 72 at Canterbury or somewhere like that, or even a mid-weeker,” Thompson said.
“We might even go back on a Saturday, but I think Canterbury will suit him as long as he draws a gate.”
Blow Dart’s victory was Thompson’s second Highway win in the space of 14 days, with Smart and Dapper taking out the 1100m Class Three Highway Handicap at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday, January 13.