It was a satisfying yet hardly surprising winning double for Wagga trainer Tim Donnelly on his home track on Saturday.
Donnelly marked the start of Wagga's own 'spring carnival' with victories to stayers Dolphina and Pontmain.
Dolphina ($8.00) made it two wins on the trot as she powered to victory in the Iron Jack Class One & Maiden Plate (2000m) - a heat of the Wagga Stayers Series.
Pontmain ($5.00) then broke through for his first victory in 970 days when taking out the Hildasid Farm Benchmark 58 Handicap (1600m).
Pontmain has always showcased above average ability since his victory on debut at Wagga in January 2019 and subsequent second placing in a Highway Handicap at start two.
But injury kept him off the scene for 800 days, only returning earlier this year to have five starts, resulting in one minor placing, before Saturday's triumph.
Donnelly admitted it was a special moment seeing the French-bred stayer back in the winner's stall.
"Absolutely. He's probably never going to be as good as what he should be, because it's like an old footballer with injury. The ability's still there, they just can't actually do it," Donnelly explained.
"He's a lovely horse, I've always liked him. You might look at his form and think it's not as good as it was, but I just kept thinking it was the wet tracks. He won like his true ability (on Saturday)."
Pontmain had not raced in seven weeks going into Saturday's run as Donnelly remained patient in search of the right conditions.
"I was confident back to a dry track...it was just the wet tracks," he said.
"His first run back was at the Cup carnival, a good track and he ran a ripper race. His next four runs were wet tracks. He just wasn't happy with them. If you just go on good track runs, and the track (on Saturday) was upgraded to a good four, he's had four runs on good tracks for two wins, a second in a Highway and a fourth first-up here."
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Donnelly rates Pontmain, raced by Tony and Bill Barton, as the best galloper he's trained since being in Wagga.
He has an eye on another 1600m race at Wagga next month, before potentially another Highway tilt.
"There's another 1600 metre race here in four weeks time," Donnelly said.
"He likes being fresh. He's pulled up sound, which is the main thing, so I'll more than likely go to that and keep his runs spaced.
"There's another Highway five weeks after his next run, over 1600. I'd like to get another win just to see he's up to it, because highway's obviously a bit of a jump."
Pontmain was ridden to victory by Kayla Nisbet. He scored by a length and three quarters from Mahsinger ($7.50), with The View ($26) another a length and a quarter back in third.
Jordan Mallyon was in the saddle earlier in the day when Dolphina scored by a length and a quarter from Jeddalet ($5.00) and Tan Line ($8.00).
The win took the four-year-old mare's record to two wins from six starts. Donnelly was happy with the performance.
"It was her first run at 2000 as well so we rode her very conservatively. They've been racing over 2000, so they had the toughness," he said.
"We thought we'd just ride her quietly, she does have a little bit of a turn of foot and she's really genuine, she's a real trier. I thought she'd run well but she ended up as one of the roughest horses in the race, which surprised me."
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