Imported stayer Abdon provided champion Sydney trainer Chris Waller with back-to-back victories in the $170,000 Wagga Gold Cup (2000m) on Friday.
Popular Sydney jockey Tommy Berry enjoyed his first Wagga Gold Cup victory as Abdon ($3.30) got the better of High Opinion ($6.00) in a classic two-horse duel down the straight.
Abdon gradually edged clear to score by a half length from High Opinion, with Wodonga galloper Willi Willi ($11.00) a further 1 3/4 lengths back in third place.
It gave Waller his second consecutive Wagga Gold Cup success after Life Less Ordinary's win last year and his third victory since 2014.
The leading Sydney trainer started out in Wagga when he first moved to Australia and was delighted to win the Gold Cup for a third time.
"Winx might have gone from my racing life but my passion and excitement is still there and I get a huge thrill in winning a special race like this," Waller told The Daily Advertiser.
"It's great also for the many owners in the horse, who are mainly wives of many good supporters of mine.
"Bruno, our truck driver, makes it his trip each year and will very proud in representing me today."
It was also a special win for Berry, who paid tribute to his good mate, the Wantabadgery wonder, Tye Angland, whose career was tragically cut short in November when he was left a quadriplegic from a race fall in Hong Kong.
"It's really good. It was a special year this year," Berry said.
"It's the first time I've been here without Tye, which it was a bit different, you know. He is Wagga. When I think of Wagga, I think of Tye. We always have a good time here so it's really special and I'm a bit lost for words."
<p>ABDON WINS THE WAGGA CUP - <a href="https://twitter.com/cwallerracing?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Cwallerracing</a> has done it again and taken out the 2019 <a href="https://twitter.com/mtcwagga?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@mtcwagga</a> Gold Cup after a masterful ride from <a href="https://twitter.com/TommyBerry21?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TommyBerry21</a> 👏👏👏 ... Nice work gentlemen! <a href="https://t.co/3vUdHujE4X">pic.twitter.com/3vUdHujE4X</a></p>— Sky Racing (@SkyRacingAU) <a href="https://twitter.com/SkyRacingAU/status/1124196331021406208?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 3, 2019</a>
Abdon carried the colours of former Wagga man Richard Pegum to victory. It was the third time Pegum had won the Wagga Gold Cup since Trade Commissioner in 2014.
A group of Sydney ladies race the horse and two of those, Maree Lowe and Lisa Woodley, were on hand to savour the moment and they were over the moon.
Lowe enjoyed it particularly after being out of the country when Life Less Ordinary won the race last year, a horse she also part-owns.
"This is a chickee babes syndicate. All the girls," Lowe said.
"It's fantastic. We're very excited.
"We didn't want to be too confident but we thought we had a good chance.
"We're in it because Richard (Pegum) picked the horse, so thank you Richard."
<p>‘’THAT ONE’S FOR YOU MATE’’ - <a href="https://twitter.com/JohnScorse?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JohnScorse</a> heard from the <a href="https://twitter.com/cwallerracing?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Cwallerracing</a> stable rep before winning jockey <a href="https://twitter.com/TommyBerry21?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TommyBerry21</a> dedicated Abdon’s victory in the Wagga Gold Cup to <a href="https://twitter.com/tyeangland?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@tyeangland</a> when speaking to <a href="https://twitter.com/chynna_marston?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@chynna_marston</a> today. <a href="https://t.co/qQORJ1EyGh">pic.twitter.com/qQORJ1EyGh</a></p>— Sky Racing (@SkyRacingAU) <a href="https://twitter.com/SkyRacingAU/status/1124201266479898625?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 3, 2019</a>
Berry was delighted to get the monkey off his back at Wagga after a previous Gold Cup defeat had haunted him for years.
"I should have won it a few years ago on Rain Drum but I took off before the bend, and he should have won quite easy," Berry recalled.
" It's eluded me since then and I've been kicking myself ever since then because it's one that got away but it's good to win it now."
Only 12 horses contested this year's Cup, with 10 horses scratched from the race due to the early heavy 10 track rating, which improved rapidly as the day went on.
High Opinion put up a brave fight for former local jockey Tim Clark, Young owner Craig Hardy and Newcastle trainer Kris Lees.
Willi Willi ran a big race for third, while Gentleman Max was the first Southern District horse home in ninth place.