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BEN Smith’s double at Newcastle yesterday with a pair of maiden three-year-old fillies

should not have been the surprise it was to many!

After all, the Kembla Grange trainer has shown in the past that he has a real affinity with preparing the “girls”.

When training at Newcastle, Smith’s breakthrough Group 1 winners within a fortnight of each other in the autumn of 2018 were in fact females.

He captured The Galaxy at Rosehill Gardens with the brilliant In Her Time, and then the Sires Produce Stakes at Royal Randwick with $81 bolter El Dorado Dreaming, who went into the race as a maiden.

And whilst Smith’s Newcastle winners yesterday also were maidens prior to their respective races, he also has lofty plans for the pair.

Vieste ($61), a daughter of Maurice, took the Provincial Benchmark 64 Handicap (1850m) at only her second start, and More Than Ready filly Mah Ali ($21) (pictured) was successful in the Class 1 Handicap (1500m), giving the trainer his first winners of the new season.

“My aim is to get one or hopefully both of them to the VRC Oaks (2500m) at Flemington in November, “Smith said today.

“The Group 1 race for fillies is only six weeks away, and that’s why I had to run both out of their class to get some miles in their legs yesterday.

“Their work had been really good at home, so I expected them to race well in spite of the fact they were maidens.”

“Vieste is out of a Pendragon mare (Blazing Dragon), who won three times over 2200m in town, so I’ve got no doubt she will relish a middle distance.

“Mah Ali’s dam Demanding Miss won six races up to 1600m, and we will give her the chance to get to the Oaks as well.

“I don’t know what it is with fillies, but I have a happy knack with them,” Smith said.

“I enjoy training them, and seem to be able to read them better.”

The stablemates upset favorites; Vieste holding out the very unlucky Myeyesadoreyou ($2.90), and Mah Ali outgaming Giancarlo ($2.35).

Robyn Freeman, who travels from Sydney four times a week to ride work for Smith, partnered the stablemates yesterday.

Smith prepares the two fillies for brothers-in-law Tory Lavalle and Tony Bertuccio, and John White, a business partner of the former.

They were both products of last year’s Inglis Classic yearling sale; Vieste fetching $95,000 and Mah Ali bringing slightly more at $110,000 when offered 70 lots later.

Smith gave notice beforehand that both could perform better than their odds might have suggested, making an importantgear change on each.

Winkers went on Vieste for the first time, and her stablemate Mah Ali raced in blinkers again.

Whereas the combined SP odds of the pair was $1281, the stable double obviously was popular with some punters, paying only $45.10, but to be fair, the pool was very small.

It was a real bolter’s day at Newcastle, with leading Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup’s Confess Our Dreams ($2.45 favorite in the 900m Maiden Handicap) the sole success of fancied runners on the eight-race card.

Aside from her victory on debut, the average price of the other seven winners (including fellow Hawkesbury representative No Statement at $15 for Mike Van Gestel) was $27.

Whereas Smith won the first two races, Newcastle trainer Nathan Doyle finished off with the closing two, scoring with Salisano ($51) and Hide Your Heart ($14).

Both sport the Darby racing colours. Salisano was on debut for Doyle in the Benchmark 64 Handicap (1200m) and has now three of her only four starts, whilst Hide Your Heart made it two in a row, having scored first-up at Scone on September 5.

. Provincial trainers have travelled far and wide to enjoy success in the last couple of days.

Kembla Grange’s Joe Ible took Fiancetto ($4.20) to Wagga yesterday to win the Maiden Handicap (1200m), following on from his victory at day earlier at the Showcase meeting at Moruya with The Carpet Bagger ($4.80) in the Benchmark 66 Handicap (1650m).

Wyong’s Damien Lane also clinched a double on consecutive days.

After scoring with Bare To Witness ($3.60), ridden by his apprentice Anna Roper, in the Class 1 Handicap (1000m) at Dubbo on Friday, he won at Mudgee yesterday with $3.40 favorite First Secret in the Benchmark 50 Handicap (1600m).

Newcastle’s Damien Smith also came up trumps at the Mudgee non-TAB meeting, scoring with Emerald’s Son ($3.50) in the Benchmark 45 Handicap (1400m) – his first success of the new season.

*Words John Curtis, October 1, 2023 - Pics Bradley Photos.*

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