After Westlink powered past the post to take out Sunday’s Country Championships Western Racing Association Qualifier, trainer Darren Hyde was mobbed by well-wishers.
The Dubbo trainer had just won a $150,000 event and booked himself a ticket to the $500,000 Country Championships at Royal Randwick so there was outpouring of emotion.
While it was joy and relief post-race, it was anything but in the lead-up to Sunday’s main event.
Hyde had sad in the week leading into the rich qualifier he couldn’t have had Westlink in better shape. If anything, that made the nerves worse on Sunday.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous as I have been in the last few days. I don’t usually get like this,” he said.
There was no need to be nervous though, as Adam Hyeronimus executed the plan perfectly and scored a dominant three-and-a-quarter length win at Dubbo Turf Club.
Westlink had sat on the second line of betting behind Cecil Hodgson’s A Martin Placepick all week but by the time the main event jumped he had firmed into a $2.90 favourite.
Darren Hyde has a treble today and more importantly he’s through to the $500,000 Country @ChampionshipsRR Final at @royalrandwick! Westlink takes out the $150,000 WRA Qualifier at @DubboTurfClub in stunning fashion! Clint Lundholm’s Sons Of Bourke in second also bound for Sydney. pic.twitter.com/9cn0XkouJ8— Nick Guthrie (@Nj_Guthrie) February 10, 2019
He settled on the rails in midfield after getting away well from gate one while California Fox ($41) and Thermosa ($5.50) set the pace up front.
As the field rounded the bend Hyeronimus moved Westlink towards the middle of the track while Thermosa and Clint Lundholm’s Sons Of Bourke ($8.50) and A Martin Placepick ($3.10) also began to surge.
But when Hyeronimus gave the order on Westlink the four-year-old gelding responded in style and surged to the lead.
There was no stopping Hyde’s hope from there and he hit the line to raucous cheers while Sons Of Bourke finished second, sending Lundholm to Randwick as well.
“That was the real Westlink today,” Hyde said.
“Adam gave him a beautiful ride and when he went past the thousand (metre mark) I thought ‘geez he’s travelling nice’ and he put them away.
Winning trainer and winning jockey. Adam Hyeronimus piloted Westlink to a clinical Country @ChampionshipsRR WRA Qualifier victory for trainer Darren Hyde. Dubbo horse immediately into a $51 chance for the $500,000 final at @royalrandwick. pic.twitter.com/0vajCYLyLk— Nick Guthrie (@Nj_Guthrie) February 10, 2019
“I couldn’t have got him any better. He was rock-hard fit and everyone, from the vet to the farrier and chiropractor did a job to make sure he was right. It’s not just me, it’s a big team effort.
“This is a good day.”
The meeting was an incredibly memorable one for Hyde as earlier wins with outsiders Bedtime Stories and Tokyo Bullet meant he finished the day with a double.
Bedtime Stories took out the Furneys Horseland Dubbo Class 2 Showcase Handicap (1100m), saluting at the juicy odds of $31, while $14 chance Tokyo Bullet stormed home late to score in the Wayne Mallison Painter and Decorator Benchmark 58 Handicap Showcase Handicap (1300m).
But Sunday was all about Westlink and the winning trainer said he’ll now sit down and work out a plan moving forward, with the final at Randwick not until April 6.
“I’ll let the dust settle today first,” he said.
“Randwick is a little way away at this stage. I wish it two weeks away and not six weeks but we’ll sort something out.”