It was not a Group One race but Jason Collett got almost as big a buzz from delivering partner Clare Cunningham her first stakes win courtesy of a dashing front-running ride aboard Cradle Mountain.
The horse had shown early promise winning six of his first nine starts but after a winter preparation Cunningham described as “messy” and a disappointing first up run, the jury was out.
So Collett and Cunningham hatched a Carrington Stakes plan to go back to basics with the gelding, whose wins had all come when he led, and in Saturday’s 1400-metre race at Randwick, he showed his rivals a clean pair of heels.
Collett, who landed a long-awaited first Group One win aboard Invincibella in last year’s Tatt’s Tiara, said Cradle Mountain’s Listed victory felt almost as good.
“I got my first Group One obviously in June and that was pretty awesome but it’s a different satisfaction this,’ Collett said.
“She’s (Cunningham) been hoping to get a black-type win and we’ve got a couple of nice horses around us but it just hasn’t quite happened.
“But this one today is a good start and hopefully there are more things to come.”
Collett said he and Cunningham had wanted to ride Cradle Mountain more quietly this campaign but when the horse flopped at Randwick first-up earlier this month, they had a rethink.
“We trialled him quieter and rode him quieter first up and it didn’t work so just go back to what he knows,” Collett said.
“Today I just jammed it out of the gates and pulled the rein and went straight across.
“I dont usually do that, I’m not usually that aggressive but I wanted them to know that I was serious about leading.
“When I got a breather from the 800 to the 400 I thought, ‘we’re going to be hard to run down’.”
Cradle Mountain ($11) had 1-1/4 lengths to spare over Cellarman ($12) with Gaulois ($7) a further half-head back.
For Cunningham, the win was a watershed moment and justification for her decision to head to Randwick after also accepting for two Melbourne sprints, including the Group Two Australia Stakes.
“It’s my first black-type win. I wanted to achieve it last year but we didn’t get to do it, so it’s great to do it early this year anyway,” Cunningham said.
“We’ve always thought he had the ability to do this and was knocking on the door a couple of times last prep.
“It was a character building prep and last start was quite deflating.
“I thought I had him in really good order but he is just a horse that needs to be ridden the way he got ridden today and we got to see him win again.”
Cunningham will consider starting Cradle Mountain next in the Apollo Stakes (1400m) at Randwick in three weeks.