A well-judged frontrunning ride from Kathy O’Hara has helped Merensky Reef upset the favourite Miss Keepsake in Saturday’s Wests Ashfield Leagues Handicap at Rosehill.
The Gai Waterhouse-trained six-year-old jumped well in the 2000m event and was able to lead all the way, holding out favourite Miss Keepsake ($1.60) by a long neck.
The Chris Waller-trained Shawnee Girl ($3.50) finished third, another 2-1/2-lengths back.
Merensky Reef’s ($13) victory was his first since returning from almost two years out due to injury.
Waterhouse’s stable representative Mark Newnham praised O’Hara’s ride and was delighted to see the gelding return to the winner’s circle at his fourth run back from his long layoff.
“He was a very promising three-year-old, he’s had a long time off with injury, and his first two runs back weren’t too bad,” Newnham said.
“We were a little bit puzzled with his run the other day but today Kathy rode him terrific out in front.
“She just rated him beautifully, he kicked on the corner and his fitness kicked in the last bit.”
O’Hara said Merensky Reef responded well under pressure.
“He had a good run out in front,” she said.
“From then on I was happy, I clicked him up from the 600-metre mark and he was pretty game late.
“Like most of Gai’s horses, he responded well under pressure.”
Apprentice Chad Schofield settled at the back of the five-horse field on Miss Keepsake before making his move on the outside approaching the turn.
Schofield said Merensky Reef was “just too strong at the distance”.
“He just kept rolling and I couldn’t catch him,” Schofield said.