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  • Provincial Racing NSW


IT wasn’t a Group 1, but Ben Smith’s Doomben triumph yesterday carried extra significance.

The Kembla Grange’s trainer’s success with underrated West Of Dalby ($20) in the Listed Mode Stakes (1200m) was not only his first in Brisbane, but also represented a metropolitan breakthrough for his owners ML Racing, comprising brothers-in-law Tory Lavalle and Tony Bertuccio, and associate John White.

Smith had his first runners in Brisbane in more than five years, and had previously had four cracks at winning a Group 1 at Doomben with his former classy mare In Her Time.

She was placed in both the 2017 Stradbroke Handicap (1350m) and Tatt’s Tiara (1350m) – both run there as Eagle Farm was closed – and also finished fifth in the Doomben Ten Thousand (1200m) the same year.

As much as Smith was pleased to add Doomben to his list of winning tracks, he was even more thrilled for his owners, who gave him the opportunity to resurrect his career 12 months ago after a lengthy hiatus on the sidelines as a result of a disqualification imposed by RacingNSW stewards.

“The boys had never previously had a winner in town anywhere, not even in a midweek race,” Smith said.

“So it was a terrific result to get them on the board in the metropolitan area, and Tory made the trip to Brisbane to see the filly win, which made it even better.

“Hopefully, that will be the first of many more city successes.”

The aptly-named West Of Dalby, a daughter of the Exceed and Excel mare and dual Listed winner Chinchilla (Chinchilla is west of Dalby in Queensland’s Western Downs region), was a $115,000 purchase for ML Racing at last year’s Inglis Classic yearling sale.

“I noticed this black type race in Brisbane for three-year-old fillies, and thought we may as well have a crack at it,” Smith said.

“West Of Dalby is a good filly, but still learning. She needs the pace on in her races.

“She has done a terrific job this preparation, and has earned a break.

“We will look to the latter part of the Sydney autumn carnival with her, and then go back to Brisbane for the winter carnival.”

West Of Dalby is not only a good filly, but tough as well.

She has raced in the three eastern States in recent weeks, and ran yesterday for the third weekend in a row, and has started five times beginning late October.

After two starts at the Melbourne spring carnival (including an excellent fifth over 1000m at Flemington), the daughter of Santos (who now stands in New Zealand and is a son of champion sire I Am Invincible) returned to her Kembla Grange stable and won a Class 1 Handicap (1200m) against her own sex there on November 18.

Smith backed her up a week later at The Gong metropolitan meeting at Kembla, and she ran second to city winner Shadows Of Love in a Benchmark 78 Handicap (1200m), also against her own sex.

“When West Of Dalby did well after that run, we decided to send her and stablemate Whisky Wisdom (who stepped up in class and wasn’t disgraced when seventh at $31 to leading Newcastle trainer Kris Lees’ Acquitted in the Listed Tails Stakes, 1600m at Doomben) to Brisbane last Wednesday night,” Smith said.

West Of Dalby, who made a winning debut at $31 at Newcastle in April in a 2&3YO Maiden (900m), has now won three of her only eight starts.

Her November 18 victory at home was one leg of her trainer’s first ever treble. Smith has now trained eight winners this season, and his career tally stands at 84.

Leading Kembla Grange trainers Rob and Luke Price’s season keeps getting better. Their unraced I Am Invincible filly Monte Supreme ($9.50), ridden by Grant Buckley, made a winning debut at Hawkesbury today.

The three-year-old, an $800,000 graduate from last year’s Inglis Australian Easter yearling sale, beat home leading Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup’s She’s All It ($13) and fellow Kembla Grange trainer Mitch Beer’s Scissor Me Timbers ($10).

Newcastle trainers Scott Aspery and Andrew MacDonald were successful at Newcastle and Kempsey TAB fixtures yesterday.

Aspery landed the Provincial Benchmark 68 Handicap (1200m) at home with Annulus ($5.50), and MacDonald the Benchmark 50 Handicap (1450m) at Kempsey with Perfection Man ($3.60 favorite).

*Story John Curtis, December 4, 2023 - Pics Trackside Photography*

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