By Isaac Murphy
Emphasis headed a Toowoomba trainers quinella in the 1600 metre Open Handicap at Eagle Farm yesterday, wearing down Steve Tregea’s brave Bergerac to score by 0.2 lengths for Richie Stephenson.
The race turned into a battle of master verse apprentice as Clayton Gallagher forged clear on Bergerac in the straight only to be pipped by a perfectly timed ride by the general Jeff Lloyd.
Stephenson said not much had gone to plan for his six-year-old gelding this prep, but a promising third at his last start at the Gold Coast gave the trainer hope he could go on with it.
“He’s had no luck this prep with wet tracks, but just started to show signs when he ran third at the Gold Coast and he improved lengths on that today,” Stephenson said.
“I was a bit worried when they packed up on the turn and he got pushed back to last, but the old general (Jeff Lloyd) knows what to do.”
“He’s a great rider, one of the best in Australia no doubt.”
Emphasis was a bargain buy for Stephenson who picked him up for $10,000 at a Darley Dispersal Sale and now has over $360,000 in earnings after yesterday’s victory.
The gelding dropped back 200 metres in trip from last start to win in an impressive training performance from Stephenson.
“It was the only race available for him to keep his prep rolling, I wasn’t one hundred percent sure he’d handle the shorter trip, but the tempo of the race set it up nicely for us.” Stephenson said.
“We’ll be back in a fortnight over the 1800m at Eagle Farm.”
Veteran trainer Stephenson believes the horse can win the Toowoomba Cup, a race that has so far eluded that local trainer.
“I’ve run second and third in the past, but never won it, so hopefully this horse can be the one,” he said.
Champion jockey Jeff Lloyd said he summed up the race on the fly choosing to ease back rather than get involved in the speed battle.
“Rather than press on, I chose to settle and find him a spot back in the field,” he said.
“I think in the end that’s what won him the race because he was the freshest horse when we got out and going.”
Lloyd praised the horse for it’s fighting qualities, as well as a great training performance from Stephenson.