In a hugely impressive run, Anthony Cavallo piloted Absolute Ripper to within centimetres of claiming a win for Orange trainer Alison Smith in the $60,000 TAB Highway Handicap (1100m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday afternoon.
Absolute Ripper jumped beautifully from barrier seven but was then caught well wide in the early stages of the sprint, Cavallo battled to restrain the four-year-old bare mare as Oakfield Time set the pace.
The Tommy Berry-trained Kanerupt pushed onto the outside of Oakfield Time and into the lead as Cavallo and Absolute Ripper finally got some coverage coming into the turn, leaving the duo poised nicely heading into the straight in third.
Oakfield Time beat off Kanerupt at the 300 metre mark – the latter fell off the pace completely – as Absolute Ripper held strong half a length back from the leader.
Flash In The Dark put itself in the mix on the outside but all eyes fell on the battle between Absolute Ripper and eventual winner Isla Tristana 250 metres out.
Smith’s mare took the lead from Oakfield Time as Isla Tristana charged into contention two horses off the fence.
Tiger By The Tale made ground too to slip into third – where it ultimately finished – as Isla Tristana pushed its nose in front of Absolute Ripper with about 70 metres to go.
The gap never pushed further than that nose either as the two battled hard into a photo-finish for first, which Matthew Dunn’s three-year-old chestnut filly came up trumps in to claim the $33,300 winner’s cheque.