Chad Lever wasted no time booting home his first provincial winner since returning from life-threatening injuries.
Lever, who resumed riding on January 3, partnered the Waller trained short priced favourite Auerbach ($1.60) to victory.
The Denman gelding atoned for a narrow last start second at Wyong, to take out the RYAN’S METAL ROOFING MAIDEN HANDICAP (1600m).
The popular jockey was having just his sixth ride back after a horror fall at Scone in August left him with bruising to the brain, a fractured eye socket, and shoulder injuries.
It was his first Provincial meeting and he drove Auerbach to a narrow victory.
“It is so good to get a winner,” an elated Lever said. “I’ve been a long time off and to get a win early on is great.”
Lever settled the $150,000 three-year-old just behind the leaders, hitting the front on straightening.
The favourite didn’t have it all his own way with Todd Howlett’s Julie Magic ($8.50) throwing down the gauntlet.
In a head bobbing finish Auerbach won by a nose, with Temolie ($17) from the Sargent stable, a half length behind in third.
Waller stable representative Clare Heuston described it as a “good, hard fought win.”
“He needed the entire length of the straight to get there but just seemed to know where the winning post was and just stuck his head out at the right time.”
Heuston said it was likely Auerbach would be headed for a metropolitan race.
“He’s obviously looking for further, he just plugs away. He’s not a sit and sprint type horse and would definitely appreciate more ground.
“I think the further the better.”
Leading Provincial rider Jeff Penza took out the riding honours on the program finishing the day with winning treble.
Penza combined with Joe Pride, Richard Litt and James Cummings to bring up his trifecta of wins.
The first win was on the Joe Pride trained Choice Harvest, who appreciated a drop back in distance to win the 1350m LAKES PRINTERS C&G&ENTIRES BM 69.
Pride stepped the $100,000 Choisir gelding up to 1600m at his last start at Canterbury but the three-year-old failed to run out the distance.
He returned him to the 1350m at Wyong, where he had broken through for his maiden win over the same distance on December 13.
Jeff Penza took Choice Harvest ($2.20) to an early lead, fighting off contenders in the straight to score a half-length win over Vaniloquio ($21) trained by Clarry Connors.
Pride said he would see how Choice Harvest pulled up before deciding if he would give him another run this preparation.
“He’s a nice horse but he’s going to get a lot better as he gets older,” he said.
“I sort of got a bit carried away sending him up to a mile but back to the 1350m in his grade he was pretty good again today.
“He’ll either go to the paddock now or I’ll find one more race for him. He might be better off in the paddock – he’s done a good job this preparation. He’s been honest and has hardly missed a place.
“It was a tough win today. He’s a nice horse, has plenty of upside and will only get better with age.”
Penza brought up a race to race double with the Richard Litt trained Klisstra ($9) upsetting some of the more favoured runners to win the 1350m CANADIAN CLUB F&M BM 66 Handicap.
It was a pick-up ride for Penza, who replaced Rory Hutchings.
He settled the eight-year-old Stratum mare just off the speed, bringing her to the outside on straightening.
Klisstra brought up her seventh career win with a long neck victory over the Mark Cross trained Stradance ($.9.50), with Jingles ($20) trained by Mark Newnham, third.
Tristan Price, representing the Litt stable said it was a “good, tough win.”
“We expected her to go well today. She got squeezed up in her last couple of runs. They raced tight and she struggled to get a run,” Price said.
“Today it didn’t really go according to plan because they went really quick early on. We had intended to be up there but she settled behind a few horses and got out on time to go on and win.”
Price said it was likely they would keep Klisstra around the 1350m distance and look for a race around the same grade.
An impressive win by the James Cummings trained Soothing gave Penza a treble.
The $2.80 favourite scored the most dominant win of the day putting almost four lengths on his rivals to win the SEA FM CLASS 1 over 1100m.
The Lonhro filly, who made it back to back wins, was having her second start since resuming.
Stable representative Steven Thompson said he considered her a “very nice filly” who would likely go on to win black type races.
“We came here very confident today and she got the job done,” Thompson said.
“She has a very bright future and I have no doubt she will go on and win some black type races.
“Both times she has been ridden well she has won, so she does have a lot of ability.”
Thompson said it was likely Cummings would take the filly along slowly and let her learn the trade.
Penza described Soothing as “very handy.”
She beat the Hawkes trained Ballet Rose ($3.20), with Pricing Power ($17) from the Clarry Connors stable, a half-length behind in third.
Proud grandparents John and Del Nutman were on hand to cheer on their granddaughter Claire after she partnered their mare Kathaire ($6.50) to victory in the 1200m PROCAB WIRELESS MAIDEN PLATE.
It was a real family affair with the winner trained at Hawkesbury by Claire’s father Richard.
Kathaire broke through for a well-deserved win surprising her trainer with the dominant five and a half length victory.
“It was a surprise,” Nutman said after the race.
“I thought she’d go really well but the way she raced she was only in front of a couple at the 800m but she kept improving and going and going and going.
“She’s very consistent and deserves this win. She ran fourth at her first start and has had blinkers on at her last few races and now she’s sort of jumped and knows what it’s all about.
“There is a race at Hawkesbury I’ll probably look at now, a Class 1 and I will just take her few her grades and hopefully she can keep improving.”
Claire Nutman said the mare had worked very well leading into the race and she had jokingly told her father she would win even if she sat three wide.
“I was actually worse than that in the running and we still got there,” she laughed.
Kathaire, who was purchased by Nutman as a yearling for $30,000, has had seven starts for a win and five placings.
She beat the Godolphin race favourite Sekiyama ($2.35) with Allez Rev ($23) two lengths behind in third.
Kim Waugh will head to town with her gelding Mo The Great after he put together back to back wins to score an impressive victory in the 1600m SHARP DS CENTRAL COAST CLASS 2 HANDICAP.
The Uncle Mo four-year-old was coming off a Scone win on December 27. His latest victory gives him the impressive statistics of three wins and three placings from seven starts.
Mo The Great had to run down the tearaway leader, Lightning Lockie, who was 10 lengths clear around the 700m mark.
Jockey Andrew Gibbons remained calm on the $2.70 second favourite, taking him to the lead half way down the straight before drawing away for a length win.
Waugh said there was no doubting the toughness of Mo The Great.
“It was really good. His last two wins have been really gutsy. Last week a couple took him on and he fought back really strongly. He had to chase hard from the 600m today and still got there.
“I thought it was going to be a good effort if he won given the way the race was run and it was. He’s a lovely horse.”
She said it was the likely progression to head to a Metropolitan mid-week race.
“I’ll most probably take him to town but he deserves it. I know he gets a strong mile and could get further.”
Gibbons said Mo The Great was a “tough bugger” and he had no doubt he would handle the step up to metropolitan class.
The Mark Newnham trained Mr Tickets ($1.80) was second, with the Gary Nickson trained Lightning Lockie ($11) third.
Well bred gelding Spencer ($2) broke through for his debut win with a half length victory in the 1350m 2GO FAMILY DAY AT WRC SUNDAY JANUARY 28 MAIDEN PLATE.
Trained by Bjorn Baker and ridden by Rachel Murray, the $200,000 Pierro three-year-old raced greenly in the straight but finished strongly to beat Neruda ($8), from the Kristen Buchanan stable, with the Waller trained Lake Hayes ($21) third.
Spencer had been racing in consistent form with a second at Scone and fourth at Wyong in his past two starts.
Stable representative Troy Hugler said the gelding still had plenty of maturing to do.
“He was a little bit green today, running around when he got a bit tired but he did a good job,” Hugler said.
“He was a little bit unlucky at Scone last start. With the long straight he was left in front a bit too soon so coming back to Wyong, being positive and going forward put him in a good position and the shorter straight helped him out today.”
Hugler said riding Spencer forward and being able to set the terms had set up the win.
“He set the tempo, wandered around a little bit and for a moment I thought he was going to throw it away.
“He’s got a bit of class about him and is a very fit racehorse at the moment.”
Murray described the winner as a “lovely horse” and “very brave.”
“It was a really nice win. He’s a very strong going fellow and I tried to settle him best I could but he was pulling hard.
“He did a great job to go on with it.”