A large crowd, a win for the locals, a double to talented apprentice Anna Roper and competitive racing paved the way for a super afternoon at Wyong’s final Summerdayz meeting. 

Damien Lane’s Pluckten scored the local win and while he started at longer odds than the more fancied runners, the victory was no surprise to the trainer. 

The three-year-old Pluck gelding was having just his third start in the 1350m SKY CHANNEL PROVINCIAL MAIDEN and Lane expected him to race well. 

“He’s a progressive horse and I was surprised at the odds,” he said. “He has come such a long way and I think the owners have one who will go on with the job. He is still working out what it’s all about and I think he will keep improving after a break and come back a nice horse.”

Lane was full of praise for his apprentice Anna Roper who brought up a winning double on Pluckten ($6.50). 

“Anna got caught three wide early but opted to go forward which proved to be a winning move. She is a big part of our stable now and has a bright future.”

Price Racing’s short priced favourite Fugitiva ($1.70) looked like he would dash clear turning in the straight, but Pluckten held him out on the line to win by a long neck, with the Perry trained Cup Of Ambition ($13) fighting on well for third. 

Roper’s first winner came via an upset in the staying race with Kylie Gavenlock’s Tina’s Rock ($10) too strong in the final stages over the 2100m. 

A great ride by Roper helped secure the Pierro mare’s first victory in the TAB.COM.AU CLASS 1 & MAIDEN, beating Ross McConville’s $2 favourite Tell The Future. 

“It’s just a wonderful win,” Gavenlock said. “This mare had double colic surgery before this preparation, and we thought we’d lose her. Owners Greg and Donna Kolivos stuck their necks out and hung in with her. They deserve this win and so does the mare.

“It was a really good ride by Anna. I thought if we were in touch with them on the turn, we were a good chance.”

There were excuses for Tell The Future who didn’t handle the turn but still fought on gamely. 

Ben Smith’s progressive gelding Outakandy justified his short price with a dominant win in the HUCKEL EXCAVATIONS MIDWAY CLASS 1 over 1600m.

The three-year-old was coming off a last start victory at Kembla and punters were confident he could do it again, backing him into $1.45. 

Zac Lloyd took a sit behind the leader and eventual runner-up Gardenzio, before hitting the front in the straight and drawing away to win by two and a half lengths. 

“I was on the best horse, and he proved himself, “Lloyd said. “He is still a fair bit underdeveloped with a bit of growing and maturing to do. He could step out over further as he progresses.”

Kristen Buchanan’s Gardenzio ($3.80), getting out to the mile for the first time fought on gamely, but may not of appreciated the rise in distance.

It was a nail-biting finish in the 1200m WYONG LEAGUES GROUP F&M MAIDEN with the Waterhouse/Bott trained Koby Girl ($2.50fav) getting the bob on the line denying Kristen Buchanan’s Kervette ($11).

And while the judge went Koby Girl’s way, the Written By filly had to survive a protest before correct weight was declared. 

It had been a race in two in the straight, with winning jockey Regan Bayliss and Lee Magorrian going head-to-head to the line. 

Neil Paine, representing the Waterhouse/Bott stable, said they had taken their time with Koby Girl, who sported the colours made famous by Gai’s father Tommy Smith. 

“They’ve always had an opinion of this filly, but she needed time, and the connections were patient. The stable thinks she will get over further in time, she’s got a lot of improvement to come.”

An excited group of owners cheered on Richard and Will Freedman’s Merchant Empire ($4.20) who caused another boil over winning the 1200m CARLTON & UNITED BREWERIES CG&E MAIDEN, by holding out the fast-finishing Edited By ($3.30). 

The Merchant Navy three-year-old bred by John Cornish at Torryburn Stud, was on debut and the stable expected him to need the run. 

But under great riding by Ashley Morgan, he held the lead for most of the race, before being giving a mid-race breather, then fighting on to the line to win by a long neck. 

“I told the owners he would probably get beat by inexperience, but he proved me wrong,” Will Freedman said. “He was inexperienced on the turn and when he gets to a bigger track and learns more he will keep improving.”

There were no excuses for the beaten brigade with Joe Pride’s $2.40 favourite Eastern Front having every opportunity.

Ross McConville made the trip from Kembla to Wyong worthwhile after his promising sprinter South Of India ($7) dominated the BEST WISHES WRC TRAINER STEPHEN “CRUSHER” FARLEY CLASS 1 over 1000m.

The Snowden trained Fire Star ($1.35) was sent out shortest favourite of the day, but Sean Guymer had other ideas leading from barrier to post. 

Fire Star was slightly slow to begin, and Josh Parr had to make a long circling run into the straight, but South Of India was too strong on the line.

The winner, a three-year-old son of Irish sire Churchill, is bred and raced by McConville and was coming off a last start victory at Newcastle over 900m.

“He’s a very nice up and coming horse and I had expected him to race really well,” he said. “I have high expectations for him but want to take him time.”

Rounding off the program was Tyrone Coyle’s injured plagued Prince Aurelius ($16), who dominated the DE BORTOLI WINES BENCHMARK 64 over 1300m.

The Kembla trained seven-year-old had been out of the winner’s circle for almost three years but was able to claim the main prize courtesy of a great ride by apprentice Olivia Chamber. 

“All credit to Olivia,” Coyle said. “She has ridden him from day one since he came back into work. She rode him on Tuesday and said he was back to his old self. She said if he’s right on the day he will win.

“I’m over the moon. He’s a day-to-day proposition but it’s great to get him back.”

Snowden’s $2.60 favourite Mirra Impact, finished two and a half lengths behind in second, but doesn’t look far off a win.