As Live And Free rubber-stamped his presence in the Queensland Derby, Julie Manning’s joy was surpassed by a more significant victory.
A part-owner of the developing stayer, Manning’s thoughts were soon with husband Gary, who watched the Wilson Asset Management Handicap (2000m) unfold from Forster Private Hospital.
The couple were involved in a single vehicle car accident as they headed home to Forster late last month.
Julie sported a brace on her left wrist at Randwick, while Gary faces a lengthy rehabilitation process from serious rib and sternum injuries.
So Live And Free’s dominant triumph was just the fillip the couple required.
“I’m just so choked up at the moment. For Gary not to be here is difficult. It’s a bittersweet moment, though it’s obviously very sweet,” she said.
“Gary’s got a lot of rib damage and he’s learning to walk again.
“I don’t think he’ll be well enough to go to the Queensland Derby but hopefully we might see him here (at Randwick) soon.”
Trainer John O’Shea acquired the three-year-old from Murray Baker’s stable in New Zealand over spring with an eye to the Group One Queensland Derby (2200m) at Doomben on June 9.
His third win from five starts since arriving in Sydney saw him shorten from $9 in the TAB market to join the Darren Weir-trained Lucky For All as the joint $4.50 favourite.
“At the half-mile the writing was on the wall. He just had a lap full of horse and we know that he had the best turn of foot,” O’Shea said.
Live And Free, the $2.30 favourite, hit the line 1-1/4 lengths from Ombudsman ($11) to give Sydney jockeys’ premiership leader Avdulla a treble.
He pushed his lead to 12 wins over Blake Shinn, who rode Merovee ($7) to third, a head off Ombudsman.
“He took me everywhere I needed to be and once I let him stride he accelerated really well and put a gap on them quickly,” Avdulla said.