It's official: Kembla Grange is a happy hunting ground for Archedemus.
The Hawkes family's gelding, who was formerly under the guidance of leading Illawarra trainer Gwenda Markwell, beat a strong field to claim the second running of the $1 million The Gong race on Saturday.
Archedemus is owned by Ross Williams' Superhorse syndicate.
With jockey Jay Ford aboard, Archedemus held on by a short neck to win from a fast-finishing Dawn Passage, trained by Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, while Kerry Parker's Think It Over was third.
It was a great return to Kembla Grange for Archedemus, who saluted in a Class One handicap over 1400m at the track in September 2018. The seven-year-old had a solid lead-in to Saturday's race, finishing second in the Ladies Day Cup at Hawkesbury earlier this month.
Ford said Archedemus had a "much deserved win" at the Gong after being challenged by Dawn Passage.
"He was in quite a mood today, pre-race. And even behind the barriers, he got very stirred up which he can do some times," he said.
"The plan was to lead, but when Positive Peace cleared out and he just kind of sat off. I thought we were reasonably controlled and that's why I turned it up from the 700 and I thought his best chance was if we could get a break on the field. He maintained his gallop all the way and he was brave when Dawn Passage challenged him. I thought Dawn Passage had the momentum so he rallied pretty strongly. He has always shown talent from early doors, we just haven't always seen it.
"I've trialed him a few times when the Hawkes family got him, but that's the first time I've actually rode him in a race. The family has always been a big supporter of mine throughout the majority of my career, they always look after me. And I was good enough to win a million dollar race for them."
At the post-race presentation, Michael Hawkes thanked the Illawarra Turf Club for their support.
"We try and support this club as much as we possibly can and on such a big day, the second running of The Gong, we are very happy to be here," he said.
"I want to thank Ross Williams for the support he has given us to train Archedemus and try turn him around... he has been very competitive and I'm sure Ross would be very excited."