HE was placed on the market to be sold on Friday morning, but now the owner and trainer of Ward might consider keeping the five-year-old after he won the $30,000 Mudgee Cup on Friday.
The win in the prestigious event gave Warwick Farm trainer David Vandyke the grand slam of Mudgee racing.
In the space of 15 months, Vandyke has won the Black Nugget Cup and Gooree Mile with Servimoss, formally owned by Mudgee’s Arthur Collins, and now the Mudgee Cup.
Vandyke said all three wins were special for their own reasons but he can’t get enough of the Mudgee track, where he has had six wins from 16 starts.
“Every trainer has their favourite track and Mudgee is mine,” Vandyke said.
“Most of time I come up I get a winner. It is such a great community, it is a great track and every horse has its chance here.”
It was make or break for Ward who hadn’t been in the best of form.
From 17 previous starts, the O’Reilly x Activate gelding had won three times.
Now it’s four and, arguably, it was his most important.
“It was a real relief to see that horse win today,” Vandyke said.
“He was in the sale and we were selling him and for him to come down the outside and win was fantastic.
“He has won more today than what we would have expected at sale.
“It was just a terrific result. The horse doesn’t have to do anymore, he has done it.”
Jockey Jay Ford said once the kiwi galloper got into gear, there was no stopping him.
“We got on the outside on the straight and he probably got there a bit too soon but he toughed it right out to the line,” Ford said.
Ward had settled at the back of the field when the gates opened.
The Gulgong-trained Excited Lover (Winona Costin, $8) led the field with Mudgee’s Lancelot (Mitchell Bell, $5.50) nestled in behind her.
Emotional Outburst (Leanne Henry, $10) made his move up towards the front while Ward (Jay Ford, $6) maintained his distance at the back alongside Brave Ali (Jeff Penza, $10).
When the field turned for home, Ward and Brave Ali made their move.
Pre-race favourite Akamas (Greg Ryan, $2.40fav) could not get a clear run.
Ward and Brave Ali, who won the Black Nugget Cup in September, went head-to-head down the outside.
With thousands cheering on, Ward had got home by a half-length with Brave Ali second, and Prior Baron (Daniel Northey, $13) and Akamas third and fourth respectively.
Vandyke said Ford followed the pre-race instructions closely.
“I wanted him last because we rode him on the pace last start and that didn’t work,” Vandyke said.
“They went very hard and I thought if he could pick up and just keep going he could win this, and of course that’s what he did.”