After a luckless last-start defeat as favourite, Philipsburg has atoned with a stylish performance to claim the TAB Highway Handicap at Kembla Grange, setting himself up for loftier goals.
The four-year-old struggled to find clear running from an inside draw when unplaced behind Commando Hunt at the same track last month but there were no such issues on Saturday.
Trailing the speed for Rachel King, Philipsburg ($4 fav) enjoyed an uninterrupted run, coasting to victory by 1-1/4 lengths over Blaazay ($9.50), who edged out So Say You ($5.50) in a photo finish for the minors.
Trainer James Ponsonby said Philipsburg had raced his way out of Highway Handicap company and would be set a long-range goal to target the Country Championships next year.
“He’s still got an opportunity to run in the Country Classic in the beginning of November over 2000 metres, but at this stage we will probably just run him in The Panorama at the end of the month at the Bathurst showcase meeting,” Ponsonby said.
“And then we will tip him out and bring him back for the Country Championships during the February/March period.”
Foreman for top horseman Mark Newnham before venturing out on his own last year, Ponsonby has been thrilled with his stable’s progress in a short time.
He says the weekly Highway Handicaps are a wonderful incentive for country stables.
“It’s one of my greatest selling points for my stable. Twelve months ago today, I was literally one win and that was a winner at Albury,” Ponsonby said.
“We’ve progressed really, really well and I try to target these races because you can buy a horse for $30,000 or $40,000 that probably is overs at that price….but today Philip is taking home $46,000 for his connections and it’s a really huge incentive, especially when he’s still got other races he’s going to be good enough to win.”