NSW visitor Sacred Stance outpointed an all-star Victorian cast to win the Group 2 $78,795 Healesville Cup Final (350m) on Sunday afternoon, in a thrilling conclusion to Healesville’s 2022 Festival of Racing.
Sacred Stance, which started his career in Tasmania, before relocating to NSW, where he’s trained by Michelle Sultana, became the first interstater to win the Cup since another NSW speedster, Marbro Man, in 2011.
Sultana, who hails from Sawyers Gully in the Hunter region, and partner Darryl Thomas, left no stone unturned in their three-week Healesville Cup quest.
“It’s been a mission!” said Sultana, after celebrating her biggest win to date, eclipsing the victory of Drink Schooners in the 2019 Listed The Collerson.
“It’s a 26-hour trip, here and back. I’m stuck in the car with Darryl too!” she added with a laugh.
“It was a massive effort. They weren’t fifth graders – they were the best dogs in Victoria.”
“We brought him down for an exhibition trial because he needed to have a run on the track before the heats. It’s so different to Richmond, especially being sand and not grass.”
Sacred Stance put the writing on the wall with an impressive 19.08sec trial, and then set the pace in last Sunday’s five heats, clocking 19.07sec.
After drawing Box 3 for the $50,000 to-the-winner final, Sacred Stance started on the third line of betting at $5.30, behind $3.30 favourite Panama Canal and Quinlan Bale at $4.70.
Typhoon Sammy ($8.10) was chasing a $50,000 bonus for winning three country cups in a calendar year, claimed last year by Ferdinand Boy ($10.60), which was attempting to become the third back-to-back Healesville Cup winner.
But the local luminaries were upstaged by the lone interstate finalist.
In a memorable finish, Sacred Stance hit the front mid-race and held the late-closing Quinlan Bale at bay in 19.14sec, with Typhoon Sammy and Action Girl ($15.90) close-up in third and fourth respectively, with just .60 of a length separating the first four placegetters.
“We were pretty confident,” Sultana said.
“I was hoping he would come out like he did in his heat – his first section last week was humming – but then he was bumping with ‘the four’ (Unleash Collinda) and got back in the field.
“Then he just took off and I was thinking ‘Can you hold on?’ It was a massive effort. They weren’t fifth graders – they were the best dogs in Victoria.”
Sacred Stance, a son of Beast Unleashed, has now won 12 of his 18 starts, with his Healesville heroics erasing a nightmare start when he joined Sultana’s kennel.
“When he came to NSW, he went to Andy and Jodie Lord,” Sultana explained.
“Then Andy gave us a call because he thought he’d be suited to a smaller kennel. He’s a very affectionate dog.
“It was great that Andy and Jodie thought of us, because the Punters HQ Syndicate paid a lot of money for him. But then at his first start for us, at Maitland, he did a pin muscle, which was devastating.
“Winning a race like this has definitely eased the pressure valve!
“I’ve got to thank Cynthia O’Brien (Healesville Manager) and all the staff; they were amazing the whole time, and Darryl’s Mum, Darallene, who looks after everything at home, so we can be here.”
Earlier, Chloe Van De Maat trained first and third in the $15,025 HGA Members Trophy Final (350m), as $24 outsider Aston Scorcher defeated Zigzag Cabang and $2.60 favourite Aston Serpens in a Best Of Day 19.08sec.
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