THEY were hoping it would be a case of third time lucky, but that was not how it played out for Central District Racing Association trainers Dean Mirfin and Gayna Williams when it came to Saturday's $500,000 Country Championships Final.
Both made the trip to Royal Randwick as their stable was represented in the annual feature for the third time, Mirfin's chances resting with $101 outsider Hamogany while Gayna Williams had hopes for Healing Hands ($18).
Both were lining up for their first race start in 42 days, their last runs having come in the Central Districts Country Championships qualifier at Mudgee.
Both trainers were also happy with how their runners had worked in the lead up. But in the end it was Art Cadeau, winner of the South East qualifier at Goulburn and the $3.30 favourite, who took the spoils in the 1,400 metres feature.
Healing Hands, who had placed sixth in last year's final, was viewed by many punters as a place chance.
But the six-year-old I Am Invincible x Miss Alberta gelding found himself in traffic early, was ninth as they hit the home straight and ended up in eighth place, 4.8 lengths behind Art Cadeau.
"He was just a bit plain today," jockey Samantha Clenton said.
It's like riding a Group 1 winner ... I just can't believe it, it's awesome.Art Cadeau jockey Tommy Berry on winning the 2021 Country Championship final
Prior to the final Mirfin knew that having room to sprint in the straight would be vital to Hamogany's chances, saying "I don't want to get strung up on the fence".
But as they rounded the final bend that is exactly where Hamogany found himself - three back on the rails in eighth position.
From there the five-year-old High Chaparral x Skybound gelding finished in 11th place, 10 lengths behind the victor.
"[The] Horse travelled well enough in amongst them, [but] got shuffled back a little more than I intended to," jockey Clayton Gallagher said. "Travelled nicely but probably wasn't up to the grade."
Art Cadeau was fourth on the rails in the opening metres, but with the speed not really on jockey Tommy Berry guided him to the lead.
While he had not led so early in any of his previous starts, on Saturday it did not worry him as he turned for home in front and then kicked.
That was enough to see the favourite hold off the fast-finishing Another One ($10) by half a length.
For Berry, a Golden Slipper winner and the man who rode 2016 Country Championships winner Clearly Innocent, Saturday's success was another highlight.
"It's like riding a Group 1 winner ... I just can't believe it, it's awesome," he said.
"Once I got him into a nice rhythm and he found the front, he pricked his ears and I got a couple of easy sectionals. From the top of the straight it was all about building him up and he was way too good for them."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: