It has been a case of third time lucky for Two Hats in a premier jumps race.
Having previously run second in the Brendan Drechsler Hurdle and then the Grand National Hurdle, Two Hats broke through in the J J Houlahan Hurdle at Ballarat on Sunday.
In a slogging finish to the 3200m-event, Two Hats ($5) got up in the last stride to defeat the $1.45 favourite Chequered Flag by a nose with Mujadale ($11) three lengths away third.
Trainer Aaron Purcell said the seven-year-old would now go for a spell before being prepared for a winter jumping campaign next year.
He said his first target would be the Galleywood Hurdle on his home track at Warrnambool during the May carnival.
Two Hats was ridden to victory by Braidon Small, the son of Cyril Small who partnered Vo Rogue to many Group One victories during the late 1980s.
Small said it was a great thrill to ride a feature race winner with his father in attendance.
“Mum and Dad and my partner Amy are my three biggest fans,” Small said.
“I always speak to my father after a race.
“He’s helped me out a lot in my career.
“Not so much with the jumping but with the position of horses in a race and getting them to travel.”
Small said he was concerned with how Two Hats was travelling early in the race, but the further he went, the more confident he became.
“I got on the back of Johnny Allen (Chequered Flag) at the third last and I thought I was in a position to win,” Small said.
“Jumping the last Johnny kicked back but my lad dug deep and it wasn’t until I got back that I realised that I had won.”