On a day of recognition for NSW country areas, two Highway Handicaps at Randwick have given connections something to cheer about.
Saturday was dedicated to Racing for the Bushfires, comprising fund raising efforts to help livestock and other animals affected by the long-term drought and fires in the state over the past few months.
Scone trainer Stephen Jones produced the first of the two winners, Mr Wong, with both divisions for country-trained horses over 1100 metres.
Mr Wong is owned by Gerry Harvey who is better known for some more high-profile horses such as Libertini, but spreads them around various trainers including Jones.
The second of the successful country-trained horses was the Aidan St Vincent-trained Hellenism from Coffs Harbour with both to be aimed at the rich Country Championships.
“Gerry will be happy and that makes me happy,” Jones said.
“He’s always shown ability. We picked out the Country Championships but I’ve always thought he is a black-type horse at least.
“I have always thought a lot of this horse and he is a gem to train.
“Thirty-five years I have been with Gerry and he’s been great to me.”
Mr Wong will head to the Country Championship qualifying heat at Tamworth on March 8.
Ridden by visiting English jockey Tom Marquand, Mr Wong ($4.80 eq fav) beat Eurosay ($7.50) by a commanding 2-1/2 lengths under top weight of 60kg.
While Jones has a high opinion of Mr Wong, so does St Vincent of Hellenism with the trainer comparing him favourably to The Jackal.
Trained by St Vincent’s father Paul, The Jackal was a Group winner and won successive Ramornie Handicaps in 2006/07.
After giving her trainer a first metropolitan win, Hellenism will now step up up to 1400m in the Country Championship heat at Coffs Harbour on February 15 after the $3.40 favourite beat Conspirator ($4.80) by a short neck.
“Today, I know we went back to 1100 but Dad always taught me Randwick is another couple of hundred metres so don’t worry about it being 1100, it’s like 1300,” St Vincent said.
“We will step to 1400 next start. She has been proven, Brett Dodson got her to do it very well before so a bit of credit has got to go to him.
“He did a wonderful job and I was just lucky to get her after him.
“It’s exciting. I have never had a horse this good, or potentially. It’s a great ride.”