Sunshine Coast-based trainer Darryl Hansen’s stable frontrunner Essington has earned a shot at black-type glory at Grafton in next month’s Ramornie Handicap after the ultra consistent four-year-old claimed a quality win at Rockhampton last week.
Partnered by ace hoop Chris Munce, well-bred gelding Essington scored their ninth career win from 19 starts in the $75,000 Rockhampton Newmarket Handicap (1300m) last Thursday.
The diminutive but resolute sprinter finished nearly two lengths clear of their stablemate Perugin Thought in the race, Essington winning in a new course record time of 1:15.3.
“He’s the best horse I’ve ever trained,” Hansen, formerly based in Mackay, said triumphantly.
Essington handed Hansen his second Rockhampton Newmarket Handicap victory, the trainer having previously taken out the race in 2008 with Onalar.
This year’s win, however, was especially impressive for a number of reasons.
Not only was Essington racing first-up after a three month spell, but he also carted a hefty 59kg to victory, the second heaviest weight carried by a Rockhampton Newmarket Handicap winner behind Kero (61kg in 1980).
Formerly raced by the famous Lloyd Williams in Melbourne who originally paid $150,000 for the son of Redoute’s Choice from Encosta de Lago mare Beasame Mucho, Essington was purchased by their new owner Marino Katsenevas for a meagre $50,000 last winter.
Essington came to Hansen as a maiden having failed in their opening four career starts in Victoria.
After being defeated in the final stride by Two Bits in a Rockhampton maiden in July last year in their first race wearing Katsenevas’ colours, Essington has gone from strength to strength winning all but one of their starts under Hansen’s preparation and earning close to $250,000 in prize money for their new connections.
Hansen is now keen to hand Essington just their second black-type assignment by entering them for the $130,000 WHK Ramornie Handicap (1200m) at Grafton on July 13.
At their only other Listed race start Essington beat a crack field including runner-up Bold Glance in the Falvelon Quality Handicap (1200m) at Eagle Farm on February 26.
Champion Brisbane rider Chris Munce had nothing but praise for Essington after their most recent win and is likely to stick with them for the Ramornie Handicap showdown.
“They (the other jockeys) didn’t make it easy for me when wide early,” Munce said of the Rockhampton Newmarket ride.
“I had to move forward earlier in the race when I didn’t want to go too soon.
“However, I never got fair dinkum with him until the last 400 metres.
“He is a nice horse.”
If Munce continues his association with Essington, who he has ridden to four wins from five starts, the jockey will be shooting for his maiden Ramornie Handicap win to add to his duo of Grafton Cup victories having ridden Count Scenario (1999) and Stormhill (2005) to victory in the other major Grafton feature race.