Despite being a $14 outsider Dean Mirfin’s four-year-old Repentant picked up its second consecutive win and third of this preparation at Orange’s Towac Park on Monday afternoon, edging out Gayna Williams’ Sugar Dance ($2.50 favourite) in a nail-biting battle.
In fact, it was so close the Bathurst trainer didn’t even know his mare had won until Williams told him after the race, Mirfin quickly responded with “did we win? No, really? I’d have been happy with second”.
“I thought [Sugar Dance] had grabbed us down the outside, so to find out it was a win was a bonus,” Mirfin said.
“We’ve had some good luck and some bad in recent weeks, the good with Cosmologist (in the Central District Country Championship Qualifier) and we were a bit unlucky at Randwick last weekend, we had one scratch at the barrier that we thought could win.
“But, I’m very happy to see a win here, it’s very pleasing.”
Drawn well in barrier four for the XXXX Gold Benchmark 64 Handicap (1280 metres), Repentant was excellent out of the gates and Jamie Gibbons settled her one off the rails a few lengths behind Mirfin’s other chance Prince Planet, which set the early pace.
Further back Joseph Dyble’s Dyfield settled in the sixth position with his mouth open slightly about a length from the favourites, covered up well by Viscount Lad.
Prince Planet led into the straight from Lucienne, and Sugar Dance made a huge move at the 250 mark, looming large on the outside after across in the bend.
But just as quickly as he loomed on the outside Repentant charged through the middle, setting up what looked like a race of three between that duo and Prince Planet.
It ended up being a race of two as Prince Planet fell off the pace to finish sixth, Repentant stealing the win in what looked like a dead heat to the naked eye.
Wayne Martyn’s Sea Lady ($4.80) stormed home to third after sitting at the tail of the field, while Dyfield and Lee Van Den Bos’ Loves A Hassle also hit the line well to finish fourth and fifth. Both just had a touch too much to do in the straight.
“She travelled really well and she’s been working well at home too, so we knew she’d be competitive,” Gibbons said, admitting there was a touch of concern about the mare stretching out to 1300 though.
“We weren’t sure about her over the [distance] but she had the gun run really, got around them and just kept on kicking.
“Fitness was a big thing I think, this was her fourth run this preparation and she’s had good work at home, she just keeps firing.”