SANTA Claus came late to Lee Van Den Bos this year.
The Orange trainer was all smiles when Belfrey Bat took out the Hartfords Menswear Benchmark 60 Handicap (1400m) at Towac Park yesterday.
“Nice Christmas present,” Van Den Bos said.
Jumping from barrier 10 and with Jeff Penza on board, the gelding raced almost to plan, with a storming finish allowing him to win by a neck from the Emma Longmire-trained Bazinga.
“We tried to get him midfield and come home,” Van Den Bos explained.
“He went forward a bit earlier than we thought, but he stuck on this time, so it was really good.”
Bazinga, jumping from barrier eight, had a good start and led for much of the race.
The Sylvia Szabo-trained Steve’s Gold was in the first three rounding the final corner but finished out of the placings.
Excited Lover, trained by Gulgong’s Brett Thompson, was third, a further three-quarters of a length behind Bazinga.
Van Den Bos was particularly pleased Belfrey Bat celebrated a win.
“We [Van Den Bos and husband Alex] bred this fellow ourselves. We’ve had him since he was a foal,” she explained.
Belfrey Bat is by Clang out of Del Cielo.
This was the gelding’s second time over 1400 metres, after previously running sixth over the same distance in July.
Prior to that the three-year-old had enjoyed its first win in May this year, saluting over 1100m at Narromine.
He is coming back from a 20-week spell and has since finished 12th over 1000m, and fifth over 1100m and 1280m distances.
Van Den Bos believes Belfrey Bat has the potential to be a strong runner over longer distances.
She also knows she has time to develop the gelding.
“He’s only a three-year-old. We hoping we might get to Sydney with him. We’ve got our fingers crossed,” she said.
Jockey Penza went back-to-back at the Racing Orange meeting yesterday, winning the second race at Towac Park on Capello.
The Brian Buckley-trained gelding won the Southern Cross Austereo Class 1 Handicap (1600m) by half a neck from Garry Frazer’s Tramp.
The next race meeting at Towac Park will be the Orange Picnic Races on Saturday, January 18.