The Bruce Hill trained Warrior Within has won the Grafton Cup after jockey Paul Hammersley produced a masterful ride to beat home Gold in Dubai, Shuffle the Cash and The Verminator.
The Murwillumbah Cup winner was largely unwanted in the betting ring, but a beautiful rails ride by Hammersley ensured Warrior Within picked up the biggest win of his career.
The race was run at a mixed tempo and the field fanned wide at the top of the home straight, with Gold In Dubai putting in a sustained run down the middle of the track. He looked the winner at the furlong pole until Hammersley got Warrior Within into some clear galloping room along the fence to surge to the lead. Shuffle the Cash and The Verminator were making late ground down the extreme outside, but Hammersley’s move was too well timed, and he kicked Warrior Within home to take out the $150,000 listed Grafton Cup.
“It’s sensational,” said an ecstatic Hammersley upon returning to the mounting yard.
“I knew he struggled at the trip so I decided to stay to the inside and it worked out. This is the biggest country cup I have won so far. It is good to come here and finally have some luck for a change.”
Trainer Bruce Hill was overjoyed at the win.
“The firmer ground helped him and I’m very proud of this horse. He’s old legs held up, it’s brilliant.” Hill said.
The win in the Grafton Cup capped off a memorable day for Hammersley, who rode a treble of at the carnival where he had never been able to salute the judge in the past.
“I’ve been coming here since about 2000, not every year but I’ve probably had about thirty rides without success before today. Now I’m going to home with three, it’s great,” Hammersley said.
Hammersley’s other two wins of the day came for trainer Liam Birchley aboard Devils Melody and Sister Havana.
Devils Melody confirmed her status as favourite by easily taking out the third race of the day, while Sister Havana broke a year long winless streak by taking out the Sir James Kirby Handicap.
Sister Havana showed promise as a two year old by winning the Karaka Millions in New Zealand, but she hasn’t been able to put it all together since returning from New Zealand.
“She has had a wind operation and has alos been a very hard filly to place since that win in New Zealand,” said trainer Liam Birchley.
“The 1000 meters with the light weight suited her and it was a terrific ride.”