A month off and a couple of trips to the beach were the key to Rafha's Choice's form reversal at Kembla Grange according to trainer Graeme Murray.
The gelding endured a tough autumn, struggling in Sydney midweek races, with the trainer opting to give the horse a seven-week break before Thursday's race.
Murray used that time to mix up Rafha's Choice's routine, taking the six-year-old down to the beach at Shoalhaven Heads, while also changing his training plans.
The rewards were on display on Thursday, the top weight charging from the back of the field to edge his rivals in a 1000 metre benchmark 64 handicap. The win was jockey Sam Clipperton's third for the day.
Given the way the race panned out, Murray was pleasantly surprised to see his horse salute.
"He'd been doing a few things wrong, over-racing and carrying on, so I freshened him up and tried to turn him around," Murray said. "We took the blinkers off, put the nasal strip on, tried to teach him something different.
"We had him in a race at Wagga on Sunday I thought he'd win, but the track was a bit wet, so this was the backup race.
"His trackwork's been good. I thought he'd run good, didn't expect him to get back to last and storm home to win. That was a surprise."
Pleased by the result, Murray will keep his horse in work for the next couple of months.
Another run at the provincial grade beckons, before a return to the midweek Sydney scene.
"We'll try pick up another one here, try jag another provincial win before we go back to the city, that'll be good. If he had've run poorly, he would've gone to the paddock for a spell.
"I'd like to see a bit more consistency from him. His first couple of runs weren't too bad, his last couple he started over-racing, charging, leading.
"Now we've got one under his belt, we might be able to ride him a bit more quieter and more consistently."
Rafha's Choice's victory came on a challenging day for the locals, with Gwenda Markwell horses nosed out on three occasions.
The first was Doctor Mancini in race three, the gelding edged by Claire Cunningham's Peralta, with Markwell's Big Data third.
It was a case déjà vu in the next race, Librarian defeated by a nose by Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott's Triskana.
The final near miss came as a result of Rafha's Choice's stunning finish, Charm Offensive third in a photo for all placings. Bjorn Baker's Matowatakpe was second.
Despite the lack of wins, the Markwell stable was pleased with the day and is eager to build on the performances.
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