A rev-up from Godolphin assistant trainer Darren Beadman was all the impetus James McDonald needed to turn in a faultless riding display and win the inaugural $1 million The Hunter aboard Savatiano.
McDonald eased Savatiano across from her outside draw, controlling the tempo and kicking clear at the top of the straight to put the 1300-metre race in the bag.
Former top jockey Beadman praised McDonald’s cool ride but that wasn’t the case at Canterbury on Friday night when the hoop was beaten on favourite Special Snap.
McDonald revealed Beadman had a few choice words for him 12 hours earlier, fuelling his desire to make amends.
“Well, after last night’s pizzling I don’t want to do it again,” McDonald said.
“She is a very good mare, her record speaks for itself.
“She hardly ever throws in a bad one and that was her perfect trip.
“She got across easy enough and travelled beautifully and sprinted.”
Savatiano was well backed into $4.60 favourite, scoring by a length over Tactical Advantage ($7) to give Godolphin a feature race double after they earlier claimed the Spring Stakes with Asiago, ridden by Rachel King.
Beadman praised McDonald’s decision to back-off the tempo midrace on Savatiano and said it was a winning move.
He gave a similar vote of confidence to the stand-alone concept at Newcastle, the meeting attracting a crowd of more than 6000.
“It’s not often you can come up to Newcastle on a Saturday and it’s a stand-alone meeting but they’ve got the crowd, they’ve got a good response from the public and the trainers have supported it,” Beadman said.
The race was a mixed bag for local trainer Kris Lees with Tactical Advantage running well for second while Graff, Invincible Gem and Le Romain finished near the tail.
Le Romain was later found to have bled from both nostrils, incurring an automatic three-month ban.
Lees was questioned by stewards over the disappointing performance of second favourite Graff, a noted betting ring drifter.
“I expected him to race up to his best but he was very disappointing,” Lees told stewards.
Stewards pressed further, asking Lees if all had been well with Graff in the race lead-up and the trainer was adamant there had been no issues.
“I said publicly I thought he was my best chance,” Lees said.
It was a tough afternoon for the leading local trainer who also had to settle for the minor prize in both the Max Lees Classic and Spring Stakes.
Fellow Novacastrian Jason Deamer was happy with Bon Amis’s third in The Hunter after a virus interrupted his campaign.
“He didn’t let us down, he missed a run leading in but he had every chance,” Deamer said.