BRIAN Portelli began the month by posting the first Group win of his career, but on Saturday night the trainer-driver got an even bigger March highlight.
That was when Portelli steered his $7 chance Tasty Delight to victory in the Group 1, $100,000 Bathurst Gold Crown Final (1,730 metres).
While saying "This is very new to me" as he accepted the iconic Bathurst trophy, Portelli's efforts in the gig were certainly worthy of such a prize.
The win of Bettors Delight x Gentle Audrey gelding ranked as one of the toughest, most determined and gritty performances in the 34-year history of the Gold Crown.
Though an impressive winner in his Gold Crown heat eight days earlier - his third win from four starts - Tasty Delight drew poorly for the final.
He copped barrier six for the two-year-old colts and geldings feature.
"The draw scared me a bit because he drew the widest runner and the favourite obviously in the two," Portelli admitted.
"But ran ran really good tonight, he went better than I thought he would."
After the arms on the barrier folded back, Portelli was stuck three-wide, then found himself having to avoid the galloping Ideal Dan.
"I was still three wide and the horse was galloping three wide as well," the Berkshire Park trainer-driver said.
Tasty Delight punched on into second but was facing the breeze and early leader, hot $1.55 favourite Lochinvar Chief, had forced the tempo with a 27.5 seconds opening sectional.
The speed stayed on down the back straight, Lochinvar Chief looked in control and Tasty Delight was under pressure.
But Portelli was not about to give up on the gelding who had delivered in the final of the Group 2 Sapling Stakes at Menangle.
Tasty Delight had won that feature as a $19 chance in a 1:52.4 mile rate.
As Tasty Delight turned for home he had some six metres to make up on Lochinvar Chief, but Portelli urged him to keep giving.
He mustered another effort in the last 200m and in his final strides stuck his head in front.
That was the margin - a head - as he denied David Moran's fancied runner in a 1:54.4 mile rate. Idyllic ($7) was a metre back in third.
"I am proud of this, it means a lot to me," Portelli said.
"I'm very proud of the horse, he's done a very good job.
"It hasn't sunk in yet."
Portelli offered his thanks to owner Charlie Cordina, not just for entrusting him with Tasty Delight, but the support he gives him as a whole.
"He's been very good to my stable, we've had a lot of fun the last couple of years and he supports harness racing a lot too," Portelli said.
Tasty Delight's career earnings now stand at $85,450 and if he continues to show the qualities that led him to Gold Crown success, that will continue to grow.
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