Bobby El-Issa defied death to beat cancer and has now held out his rivals on the racetrack to record his first city winner since making a remarkable comeback.
El-Issa returned to the saddle in April after a battle with leukaemia to ride a winner on his first day back.
While city success has been more elusive, he broke the drought at Canterbury on Wednesday aboard the Les Bridge-trained Eastern Legend.
“Is this the right stall? Haven’t been here for a while,” El-Issa said as he took Eastern Legend into the winner’s stall.
Eastern Legend ($7.50) took out the Hyland Race Colours Handicap (1250m), swooping home late to beat Got Unders ($8) by a half-neck with No Bad Blood ($8.50) a half head away third.
“It felt good riding one for Les Bridge,” El-Issa said.
“The last winner I rode in town for him was about 12 or 13 years ago.
“It was a big win for me. I just wanted to come back and ride winners in town.
“I feel I’m as good as any of them, I just need the horsepower.”
Bridge rates Eastern Legend’s prospects but is not getting carried away by settling the bar too high.
“They’re only as good as their next win you know?” Bridge said.
He said the highly strung four-year-old had been a difficult horse to handle.
“We bought him as a stayer but he can sprint a bit,” Bridge said.
Mature-age apprentice jockey Rachel Hunt also recorded a milestone, scoring her first city winner in style with a heady ride on the Barbara Joseph and Paul Jones-trained Token Of Love in the Tab.com.au Handicap (1550m).
“I don’t believe it actually. I’m a little bit shocked to be honest,” Hunt said.
In her second metropolitan ride, Hunt took the initiative mid-race, taking Token Of Love ($5) to the lead after determining the pace was too slow.
Fortensky, the $2.35 favourite, looked to have Token Of Love’s measure in the straight but a spirited fightback allowed him to emerge the winner by a long head.
Murraguldrie ($5.50) finished off late to run third.
The 27-year-old Hunt is based in Canberra where she is indentured to Keith Dryden and Scott Collings.
In sweltering conditions at Canterbury, jockeys Blake Shinn and James Doyle succumbed to the heat and were stood down from rides during the afternoon.