A STEP up in class proved no obstacle for Mackeral on Friday night as he won the Cherry Festival Cup in Young, but trainer-driver Bernie Hewitt has bigger challenges in mind for the gelding.
Hewitt revealed he will target the richest four-year-old race in Australia – the Chariots Of Fire – with Mackeral in early 2019.
On Friday night in the feature race of Young’s Carnival Of Cups meeting, the McArdle x Lady Jasperella gelding bettered higher-graded rivals.
“He’s a very nice horse and I knew that he’d run a really top race. Whether he could win or not you wouldn’t know really until you’re in the race. But I was confident, he can work as good as any of the free-for-allers at home,” the Georges Plains trainer-driver said.
“He was actually a grade below – it was for C4 and better and he’s a C3 horse. He managed to draw the two gate and he’s got brilliant gate speed, so he managed to cross the one horse and took a sit on the favourite.
“He then got out turning for home and was too good.”
As Hewitt indicated, the draw played a role in Mackeral’s success in the 2,100 metres, $12,750 Cherry Festival Cup.
Mackeral ($3.80) was able to cross Ned Pepper and take a sit in the trail behind Arma The Gun ($3.40 favourite).
There Hewitt waited as the frontrunner was pressured by Holy Camp Clive, his move finally coming as they hit the final bend.
Hewitt peeled off the pegs and challenged down the outside, Mackeral kicking clear in the final 100m to take out the feature in a handy 1:57.0 mile rate. He finished 2.6m clear of Ned Pepper ($23), with Arma The Gun a head back in third.
“My nephew’s horse, Brad Hewitt, his horse [Arma The Gun] was the favourite and it’s been competing in really high quality races, including the Chariots Of Fire last year,” Hewitt said.
“But it was first-up after a long spell. He’d been in work four months Brad said and he’d had a few trials, but I think he was just a run short and he copped a fair bit of pressure during the run.
“I just had that nice sit and my fella has a brilliant turn of foot and he did the job.”
Hewitt said Mackeral will now have a brief spell before returning at Bathurst’s December 26 meeting, but that the “long term goal is the Chariots Of Fire”.