It was one-way traffic in the betting market before the $20,000 Bathurst RSL Club Benchmark 66 Handicap (1200m) at Bathurst on Monday as punters flocked to back Bjorn Baker's Stoked.
And even though the filly was crunched from $3.80 into $2.50, she didn't have the staying power to hold off the fast-finishing Lettre D'amour ($9) as the Tara and Philippe Vigouroux-trained mare claimed top prize at healthy odds.
Winona Costin led the mare to the front of the pack from the fourth barrier and sat comfortably alongside the heavily backed favourite who held the inside position.
The front-running pair remained in the same place for the first 800 metres and even though Stoked held a narrow lead at the turn, Lettre D'amour looked to have plenty of gas left in the tank. Mitchell Bell reached for the whip on Stoked at the 200 metres but Lettre D'amour was fast-approaching on the outside and with 100 metres to go, exploded past the favourite to win by a length.
Shaun Guymer rode Action Shale ($3.30) to a second-placed finished as the gelding was able to sneak past a fading Stoked. The win was the five-year-old's fourth but the first career triumph in the Central West as her previous two victories came at Kembla Grange and the Hawkesbury. It was also a first-time win over the 1200 metres as her previous victories were over the kilometre and 1400.
Ronald Simpson rode Alison Smith's Panaura ($16) and did all he could to overcome the wide gate but after working his way into a solid position at the turn, fell right off the pace and ended up finishing towards the tail end of the pack. Since being freshened in March, the seven-year-old gelding's ran three consecutive non-placings despite winning at Dubbo prior to the six-week break.
Portelli-trained favourite breaks maiden
In the $20,000 Watermart F & M Maiden Handicap (1200m), Trainer Gary Portelli enjoyed success through two-year-old filly Nicci's Fling ($2.30) as the Kathy O'Hara ridden prospect swooped home on Tastebud ($9) for a spectacular win.
Nicci's Fling spent the duration of the race at the front of the pack and two-wide from the eventual runner up and after slowing up with 200 to go, found a second wind to flash home for an ever-so-narrow victory.
The win was the filly's first career triumph as her previous runs were a pair of placings at Warwick Farm before a fifth-placed effort at Wyong. Before that she had a four-month spell that came in the wake of a pair of trial runs.
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