Snowden Snares 2YO Clean Sweep as Snitzel Fizzles in TJ


Benfica wins the Group 1 TJ Smith

Peter Snowden and the Darley Racing team completed the fairytale at Eagle Farm’s Stradbroke Handicap Day, Benfica bouncing back to score victory in the TJ Smith and hand Snowden a five-from-five whitewash in the year’s Group 1 two-year-old features.

“It’s just super,” an emotional Snowden said after Benfica saluted in the $500,000 Group 1 TJ Smith (1600m).

“A huge effort to all the staff.

“That’s really good.”

Benfica’s success came after star stablemate Sepoy became the best two-year-old of the season during the autumn winning both the Blue Diamond Stakes and Golden Slipper, followed by Helmet taking out the AJC Sires Produce Stakes – Champagne Stakes double.

Winner of the Listed Hampden Stakes (1200m) two starts back, Benfica went out on the third line of betting for the TJ Smith having failed to fire in finishing sixth last Saturday in the Group 2 BRC Sires Produce Stakes (1400m).

But Snowden and jockey Kerrin McEvoy knew the colt had the ability to bounce back and bounce they did.

Gerald Ryan’s BRC Sires Produce Stakes winner Hot Snitzel was the TJ Smith favourite, and found the early lead soon after jumping in the TJ Smith.

McEvoy allowed Benfica to settle back just off the pace, giving the eventual champion a patient ride along the fence.

On the straight Benfica drove up on the inside to join the favourite in the lead, eventually proving too strong for Hot Snitzel in snaring the front running position at the perfect time.

Over the final 100 metres Benfica drew away and scored a well-deserved win, Hot Snitzel in second while the Todd Austin-trained Playtime crossed for third.

Benfica has now won three of their five career starts, heading to the paddock after the TJ Smith success to prepare for what is sure to be a stellar three-year-old spring season for Snowden.

“I didn’t plan for this,” Snowden said of the incredible two-year-old elite level clean sweep.

“I was really confident this year that we had some nice two-year-olds, but how far they’ve gone, I couldn’t predict this.”

Describing Benfica as “more of a late bloomer” than some of his other juveniles, Snowden could not conceal what today’s win meant for himself and the stable.

“It’s nearly impossible to do and I don’t know if it’s a fluke, a miracle or just good judgement but I’ll take all three,” he said.

“I was confident the horse would run well, but just that run last week was always in the back of your head.”

Snowden is now looking towards the spring and his well-performing crop hoping for a similarly sensational season.

“I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself but it’s been a good two-year-old season and I’m happy with that,” he said.

Winning jockey McEvoy was full of praise for the TJ Smith winner, his second having also been aboard Juanmo back in 2001, and also held high hopes for what Benfica could achieve next season.

“To his credit, once I got the spit he just outstayed them,” McEvoy said.

“It’s a great thrill.

“It’s great to be winning these Group 1 races.

“This is my second win in this race

“I love coming up here.

“I’d be surprised if he doesn’t stay a bit further, he’s still a bit keen and energetic as a two-year-old but next season he might settle down a bit and stay up to 2000 (metres.)

“Today was his main goal and luckily everything went right today.”

It couldn’t have gone better by the smile on Snowden’s face.