GAYNA Williams' Healing Hands was right in the mix for victory in Saturday's Country Championships Final at Royal Randwick but couldn't find his way through a wall of horses in the run for home.
Healing Hands ran home just as quickly as winner Gracie Belle over the final strides but left his charge a little too late as the Central District Racing Association heat winner had to settle for sixth.
Less than two and a half lengths separated a bunched up top 10 in the $500,000 finale.
Jockey Adam Hyeronimus didn't have to do much work to find the rail shortly after the jump, and settled in mid field.
Julian Rock and Hit The Target set as fast tempo out in front ahead of Two Big Fari and Sky Call. They had a small break over Al Mah Haha, who had Healing Hands in tow.
On the turn for home Gracie Belle snuck down the inside of Healing Hands, for what would be the winning run, while Williams' runner tried hard but lost touch with Al Mah Haha.
Healing Hands gained back some of the lost ground in the dying stages but wouldn't get past the five-horse wall headed by Gracie Belle ($21), Al Mah Haha ($13) and Plonka ($15).
The day belonged to the grey, Gracie Belle, who gave trainer Matthew Dunn a big thrill.
It was an impressive performance after Gracie Belle looked flustered in the barriers.
"We probably have taken the right horses and struck the wrong track,'' Dunn said after the victory.
"This time maybe we didn't have a horse with quite as good form as our other horses but she found the right surface and that was the difference.
"Her form was pretty good, she had proper Saturday Brisbane form and I've always thought that was good enough.
"The key was the tempo was strong enough to get her to settle. At Grafton when they went slow she pulled and that was the difference.''
It was Kerrin McEvoy's first Country Championships win.
The other Bathurst-trained hope in the race, Dean Mirfin's Electrified ($81), was only a couple of lengths off the lead when jockey Hugh Bowman peeled out wide with 400m to go.
Unfortunately Electrified couldn't go with the leading group and faded back to 15th at the post.
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