Jeff Penza hadn’t seen anything like it at Kembla Grange.
The dark clouds descended and the winds followed shortly after 2pm as the race meeting soon quickly looked in doubt.
It was a rare experience, even for the state’s top provincial jockey. But just as it looked like the apocalypse was descending on the Illawarra Turf Club, the runners for the Huntley Benchmark 60 Handicap (1600m) walked into the mounting yard.
Penza partnered Anthony and Edward Cummings’ Noble Truth in the fourth event of the afternoon and he wouldn’t let the opportunity go to waste.
“That big downpour before the race going to the gates it was coming down pretty hard and was probably the worst it has been,” Penza later said.
“During the race it wasn’t too bad and the track is obviously in great condition. There was hardly any kick back which is a good sign and just the spray of the surface water.”
As the rain poured down, Penza gave Noble Truth every chance of victory. Determined not to get pinned on the inside, he eased himself away from the fence in the running.
The run opened up perfectly for Penza at the top of the straight and Noble Truth gladly took it.
John Sargent’s Tinkermosa looked to have the race at her mercy but Penza’s hard riding paid off in the final strides.
“He went good,” Penza said.
“Unfortunately Adrian Layt got hurt. He won on him at his last start and was meant to be on him again.
“He rode him really well last time so we went with the same plan. I rode him with a bit of cover. He hit the line good. The last hundred metres, the horse was only just winding up into a strong wind.
“He can be a bit green sometimes but the horse really straightened up [on Saturday] and went really well.”
Penza nailed another winning double two races later when Kennedy saluted Uth Christmas CG&E Class 1 Handicap (1200m). The state’s best provincial hoop had Godolphin’s odds-on chance poised to strike in the run and the well-bred colt led down accordingly in the straight.
Meanwhile, Blake Spriggs produced a fantastic front-running ride to guide Deluxe Rocker to victory.
Despite drawing poorly in barrier 13, Spriggs went forward on Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott’s lightly-raced three-year-old.
It proved a winning move.
Jockeys Grant Buckley, Chelsea Ings, Alison Threadwell, Mitchell Bell and Josh Adams also tasted success on a damp afternoon.