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Former champion Sydney apprentice Ronnie Stewart has celebrated his homecoming with a victory at Wednesday’s Australian Turf Club meeting at Newcastle.

Sydney’s top junior rider in 2002-03, Stewart left in 2006 to take up a riding contract in Singapore where he enjoyed great success over several seasons.

More recently, he rode in Mauritius before returning to Australia earlier this month.

Stewart has been riding work for Newcastle trainer Paul Perry since his return and his effort was rewarded with the winning mount on Higashi in Wednesday’s Coca Cola Handicap (900m).

“It’s nice to get a win in my second week of riding,” Stewart said.

“I just missed home a bit, it’s always hard being away for so long.

“I got an opportunity for the Perrys, they’ve been good to me so hopefully there are a few more winners.”

The victory aboard Higashi was Stewart’s first metropolitan winner since he returned from overseas.

Earlier on the program, superbly bred filly Lilliburlero signalled a bright future lay in store with a commanding debut win.

By Redoute’s Choice out of two-time Group One winner Regimental Gal, Lilliburlero’s career was delayed by an early setback but trainer David Payne said she had always shown above-average ability.

“She’s bred to be good,” Payne said.

“We’ve always had a high opinion of her. She had a virus that’s why we put her out but we always knew she was going to be alright.

“We will give her a couple of easy kills if possible then see if she can step up to the mark.”

The Newcastle Jockey Club had some good news before the meeting even kicked off after its members voted to accept an $11.2 million funding package from Racing NSW on Tuesday night.

The money, which will be used to finance the construction of a second inside grass track and also to refurbish the course proper, was conditional on the club changing the structure of its board.

 
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