Brett Robb’s rise through the training ranks continued Saturday, with the Dubbo trainer preparing a metropolitan quinella.
Contesting the $120,000 Highway Handicap, Robb sent Wilbury (Clayton Gallagher, $15) and Gallant Star (Sam Clipperton, $5) to the races, and it was the outsider of the two that prevailed in a frantic finish to the line.
The Natalie Pearce-trained Rockin’ Edition (Ken Dunbar, $11) led the field along with the Matthew Dunn-trained The Lion’s Gate (Nash Rawiller, $4.40), while Gallagher positioned Wilbury to get the gun run on the leaders’ backs.
Turning for home, The Lion’s Gate charged to the lead while Gallagher peeled three wide and popped the question.
Wilbury then worked to the front with a half-furlong to go and held on gamely to win by a long-neck from his fast-finishing stablemate, Gallant Star, who got home for second ahead of the Todd Howlett-trained King Rupert (Jay Ford, $18), which caught the eye in third.
The Dubbo trainer, who has made a habit of winning in Sydney, with Sizzle Minizzle triumphing in the 2023 Country Championships as a 60/1 shot, was happy to land a quinella in the rich country-restricted event.
“I honestly thought he (Gallant Star) was the better chance of them, but it’s a good result to finish first and second,” he said.
Robb was quick to praise Gallagher, who also made the long trip to Sydney for the ride.
“It was a really good run, and I’ve got to take my hat off to Clayton; it was a ten out of ten ride,” he said.
“Look, this horse, he is a really hard horse to ride, and he is hard to maintain for the first half of the race, and Clayton doesn’t come down and ride many Highways, but when I asked him to come down and ride this one, he said I’ll definitely ride him, so he must have known.”
Formerly trained by Anthony and Sam Freedman, then Mitchell Beer, Wilbury arrived at Robb’s yard as an eight-start maiden.
The four-year-old has since started four times for the Dubbo stable, finishing second when first-up at Coonamble before registering three wins on the trot.
In October, the Capitalist gelding notched victories at Orange and Wellington before Saturday’s win.
Robb hinted that connections will likely trek back to town on December 30, with Wilbury being set for the 1200m Class Three Highway Handicap at Royal Randwick.
“There is a Class Three 1200m in a month’s time, and he’ll come back down here for that,” Robb confirmed.
It was a big day for country trainers at Rosehill Gardens, with the Mike Cattell-trained Zegalo (Dylan Gibbons, $10) breaking through for a well-deserved win in the Country Classic (2000m).
Country-turned-provincial trainer James Ponsonby also enjoyed a good win in town, with stable stalwart Philipsburg (Tom Sherry, $6) a decisive winner of the Midway Handicap (2000m).