WAGGA trainer Trevor Sutherland says Azaryah's tough-as-nails win at Gundagai on Saturday was just reward for owners' patience after the mare returned from a near two-year absence in fine style.
Azaryah hadn't raced since running third in her second career start in December, 2017 at Mornington, after which she was transferred to Sutherland from the Cindy Alderson stable.
The five-year-old was sent to the paddock after a tendon injury was detected before her encouraging display on 'hair of the dog' day.
Trapped wide in the early stages of the $22,000 Maiden Handicap (1400m), Azaryah was headed by $2.70 favourite Gunzar in the final furlong before responding brilliantly to score by half a length for jockey Bryan Murphy.
"She's going to be a mare that improves as she goes up in trip. It was a big effort to win first up after that long in the paddock," Sutherland said.
"She's going to be a lot better big track horse, no doubt about it, once she gets to somewhere like Wagga and has more room.
"We'll probably step her up to a mile or something like that (next), I think she'll eventually get 2000 metres."
Sutherland said the owners needed to take credit for agreeing to keep her in cotton wool until fully recovered from her injury.
"Tendons can be funny things so we gave her plenty of time," he said.
"The owners were prepared to wait, most people wouldn't have and they wouldn't have a horse to race.
"It's good to see them get rewarded."
Fellow Wagga trainer Gary Colvin also scored a win on Saturday with $3.10 favourite Weja winning the $22,000 XXXX Gold Class 1 and Maiden Plate (1800m) by one-and-a-half length from Savvy Acquisition ($14).
Canberra trainer Luke Pepper claimed the $30,000 Gundagai District Services Hair of the Dog Cup (1800m) with $8 hope Tiara Road.