Low-key Sunshine Coast trainer Natalie McCall today celebrated a win in what’s always been her favourite race, the Stradbroke Handicap 2014 won in an upset by her on-pace galloper River Lad.
In a fitting result in this year’s $1.36 million Group 1 AAMI Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm a Queensland-trained horse won the state’s richest race.
“I’ve always loved the race as a kid, it’s always been my favourite race,” McCall said post-race.
“It’s always been super special for me.”
It was in fact an all-Queensland Stradbroke Handicap quinella with Top Echelon six-year-old River Lad narrowly holding off Tony Gollan’s Group 1 winning seven-year-old Temple Of Boom.
Finishing off the Stradbroke Handicap trifecta in a close third was then the very talented young Victorian filly Srikandi who jumped favourite and was far from disgraced holding off the 58kg topweight Gollan’s Doomben 10,000 winner Spirit Of Boom in fourth on the outside.
The tears were flowing post-win from McCall who was thrilled to break her Group 1 duck thanks in part to a great ride from Melbourne Cup winning hoop Damien Oliver.
“He’s a tough Queenslander,” Oliver said.
“What a great thrill to win Queensland’s biggest race. It’s my first Stradbroke and I couldn’t be happier.”
Oliver was called upon to ride River Lad after Timothy Bell, who partnered the Tony Pike-trained New Zealander Sacred Star, jumped off them.
Bell was aboard River Lad for their last start when a second-up winner at Doomben on May 17 in the Group 3 BRC Sprint (1350m).
They just held off the challengers in that race proving too strong in a fighting finish with Benny’s Buttons.
But like many other critics, Bell didn’t rate that good enough form leading into a Stradbroke.
River Lad proved him wrong however thriving on the Good (3) track at Eagle Farm and knuckling down like a true warhorse to win the fight with Temple Of Boom who came off another Group 1 second when just beaten by half-brother Spirit Of Boom in the 10,000.
“Unbelievable,” McCall said of the win and the winning horse.
“He’s so tough.
“I was really happy with the horse (before the race). I couldn’t be happier with him.”
While Bell didn’t rate River Lad, Oliver had some confidence heading into the race having looked back over his mount’s autumn form.
They were runner-up to Appearance in the Group 2 Expressway Stakes (1200m), Appearance going on to win the Apollo Stakes and then the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes at her next two runs.
“I never heard much about him but I looked through is form from the autumn and his second to Appearance,” Oliver said.
“On that run alone I gave him some chance.”
Away brilliantly from the gates was the Ciaron Maher-trained favourite, last start Glenlogan Stakes winning three-year-old Srikandi.
She settled just off the lead however with Temple Of Boom and apprentice hoop Tegan Harrison going up to lead from River Lad who had to work to get across form their wide gate, something Oliver didn’t mind.
“Speed horses I don’t mind from the outside…you can take your time coming over,” he said.
“It was a bit of a blessing for him today.”
In the end it was a two horse battle from that pair over the final 200m, a dogfight McCall was confident they could win watching from the sidelines.
“Normally I’m confident in a dog fight because I know how tough he is….unbelievable,” she said.
The full Stradbroke Handicap 2014 results and finishing order are found below so you can see where your selections ran.
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2014 Stradbroke Handicap Results & Finishing Order
Eagle Farm Race 8 – 07/06/2014
|1||7||RIVER LAD||Natalie Mccall||Damien Oliver||–||15||55kg||$31|
|2||5||TEMPLE OF BOOM||Tony Gollan||Tegan Harrison (a)||0.1L||14||56kg||$26|
|3||17||SRIKANDI||Ciaron Maher||Glen Boss||1.1L||13||51kg||$6F|
|4||1||SPIRIT OF BOOM||Tony Gollan||Michael Rodd||1.3L||5||58kg||$9.50|
|5||9||SACRED STAR||Tony Pike||Timothy Bell||1.8L||16||53.5kg||$21|
|6||18||HUCKLEBUCK||Phillip Stokes||Dom Tourneur||2L||1||51kg||$6.50|
|7||2||REBEL DANE||Gary Portelli||Tommy Berry||2.1L||18||56.5kg||$10|
|8||6||SMOKIN’ JOEY||Wez Hunter||Ben Melham||4.1L||3||55.5kg||$15|
|9||16||SCORPIO QUEEN||Kris Lees||Jim Byrne||4.3L||9||52.5kg||$91|
|10||4||RED TRACER||Chris Waller||Nash Rawiller||4.4L||12||56kg||$7|
|11||3||FAMOUS SEAMUS (NZ)||Noel Mayfield-Smith||Ryan Wiggins||4.6L||7||56kg||$21|
|12||10||KNOYDART||John O’Shea||Kerrin McEvoy||4.8L||11||53.5kg||$8|
|13||12||VELROSSO||Chris Waller||Larry Cassidy||5L||17||52.5kg||$61|
|14||13||EMBLEMS||John O’Shea||Chad Schofield||5.2L||6||52.5kg||$31|
|15||14||REPARATIONS||Anthony Freedman||Daniel Moor||5.7L||10||52.5kg||$41|
|16||11||BELLTONE||Kelso Wood||Eddie Wilkinson||5.8L||4||53.5kg||$81|
|17||8||CONSERVATORIUM||Gary Kennewell||Joe Bowditch||6.8L||2||54kg||$31|
|18||15||LUCKY HUSSLER||Kent Fleming||Jason Taylor||7.1L||8||52.5kg||$151|
|–||22e||BELLE DE COEUR||Luke Price||–||–||0||–||–|
|–||23e||SCREAM MACHINE||Jason Coyle||–||–||0||–||–|
|–||19e||MASTHEAD||Chris Waller||Chris Munce||–||0||–||–|
|–||20e||INTO THE RED||Kelso Wood||Andrew Spinks||–||0||–||–|