Country trainer Darren Weir tightened his grip on the Victorian metropolitan trainers' premiership with a hat-trick at Moonee Valley on Saturday and his success - not surprisingly - is rubbing off on all involved with the stable.
Regular riders Brad Rawiller and the two-kilo claiming apprentice Harry Coffey both landed doubles. For Coffey it was his first double in the Melbourne metropolitan area when he scored aboard May's Dream ($4) and Siwa Lady ($8) for the Ballarat-based handler.
One of Rawiller’s winners, the hugely promising Signoff (the heavily backed $1.20 favourite) came for Weir, while the other, Miss Steele, ($7) was sent out by Mick Kent, the Cranbourne-based trainer who supplies a regular stream of city winners.
Not that Weir was the only trainer to strike more than once at the Valley. His closest pursuer in the race for the trainers' title, multiple champion Peter Moody, scored a running double in the last two races with Crime Fighter ($11), ridden by Patrick Moloney, and Soros ($8), who finished with a flourish first-up to score under Luke Nolen.
The latter had also scored earlier in the day aboard promising Sydney-bound stayer Le Roi ($10) for Tony McEvoy in the $100,000 Silver Thomas Hanley Handicap over 1600 metres.
Weir’s treble brings his seasonal city total to 59, while Moody’s pair bring his tally to 43. It's not impossible for the Caulfield trainer to run down his provincial-based rival with four months of the season remaining, but it is unlikely.
Rawiller, who has racked up numerous group 1s during his career including a win on Viewed in the Caulfield Cup, knows just how a good stayer should feel. He is convinced that European-bred Signoff is out of the top drawer.
By English Derby winner Authorized and was born in Britain to northern hemisphere time. So although he is a rising five-year-old according to the Australian calendar, he is, in reality, only just a four-year-old.
This is his first preparation and his win in the Meadownick Laser Clinic Handicap over 2500 metres brought his tally to six wins from seven starts.
Weir has been judicious in his handling of the gelding, who runs in the same Gerry Ryan colours that another import, Puissance De Lune, carries. The horse has come a long way in a short time, having made his racecourse debut less than four months ago in a maiden at Terang.
But such are the wraps on him that he is being compared to the former French-trained galloper Puissance De Lune, who is a multiple group winner in this country and was, for most of the spring until he went wrong in the Cox Plate, favourite for the Melbourne Cup.
Weir is reluctant to get too far ahead of himself and will now send Signoff to the paddock for a well-deserved spell.
But he is hopeful that the gelding will improve both physically and mentally with the benefit of a break and come back bigger and stronger in the spring, where his targets are likely to be the Bendigo Cup and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on the final day of the Melbourne Cup carnival, two races won by Puissance De Lune in 2012.
‘’I thought watching him travel down the straight the first time he looked to be loving it. He had his ears pricked and was going well. But a lot of the opposition were jumpers so we can’t get too carried away by that,’’ Weir said.
‘’He is going to the paddock in a great frame of mind, which I reckon is really important for a horse like this. He got a bit hot today, he was sweating up. It was great to see him roll along, not reefing and tearing. It's important for stayers to be able to do that.’’
For Coffey it was a memorable afternoon as he continues to impress on Weir runners.
May’s Dream’s mother, She’s Archie, won the South Australian Oaks in Adelaide in the autumn of her three-year-old career, and the filly will be given the chance to follow in her footsteps to target group race glory over the next few weeks when she heads across to South Australia.
Weir is confident that she will stay the 2000 metres of the Australasian Oaks, but not so optimistic that she might ultimately have the same stamina reserves as her dam, who also gave the great Makybe Diva a race when she finished second to the legendary stayer in the first of the Diva’s Melbourne Cups in 2003.
Le Roi had spent almost a year off the track after injuring a tendon in the BMW in Sydney last season so his effort in winning second-up over 1600 metres augurs well for his prospects in NSW when he heads north for his next start.
The story Darren Weir gets closer to trainers' title at Moonee Valley first appeared on Brisbane Times.