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  • John Curtis


MONDAY: February 8, 2021: BATHURST has long been a happy hunting ground for Hawkesbury trainers – and so it was again today.

Claire Lever, Matt Vella and Norm Lewis each shared in the spoils, capturing three of the seven races.

The Lever and Lewis winners (Choosday Nights and Moon Over Menah) were at good odds ($9 and $19 respectively), whilst backers of Vella’s hotpot You Rang had to take much shorter odds as she went to the post as a $1.60 favorite.

New Zealand-bred four-year-old Choosday Nights, a daughter of 2011 NZ Derby and Rosehill Guineas winner and Cox Plate runner-up Jimmy Choux, broke through in good style in the Maiden Plate (1408m).

Winning trainer Claire Lever, who notched her fifth winner in her inaugural season, was attending the Inglis Classic yearling sale in Sydney, and her jockey husband Chad made no mistake on the mare.

He gave Choosday Nights a couple of liven-ups with the whip after jumping away to “get her on the bridle” as he later explained, and she was dominant through the line at only her fourth start.

“She will appreciate getting up to 2000m, and eventually will be a blinker horse but not yet,” Chad Lever said.

Choosday Nights was one of two horses Claire Lever’s parents, Richard and Bernadette Nutman, purchased from the Book 2 catalogue at the Karaka yearling sale in New Zealand three years ago.

The other was Per Incanto mare Grace Bay, who is putting together a nice record, having won four of her eight starts – the first for Richard Nutman last season and the remaining three for his daughter.

Matt Vella also was at the Classic yearling sale at Inglis’ Riverside complex at Warwick Farm – and again it was Chad Lever who successfully did the job on four-year-old mare You Rang.

Despite lumping 62kg, You Rang put up a gutsy performance to take the Class 1 Handicap (1108m) against her own sex, albeit narrowly.

She rose 4kg on her recent thrashing of Maiden rivals over the same course at the previous Bathurst meeting and, whilst the margin this time was nowhere near as convincing, her effort was full of merit.

You Rang gained an early lead, but had no peace as fellow Hawkesbury representative, Terry Croft’s Tadema ($16), pressured her throughout.

You Rang still gave a good “kick” on straightening, and had enough in reserve to narrowly hold off Rosadiblu ($5.50), who had enjoyed a cosy run but still couldn’t overhaul Vella’s mare.

“We didn’t have it our own way, and she toughed it out really well with the weight,” Lever said.

Apprentice Julia Presits’ rails-hugging ride clearly was the difference between victory and defeat for Norm Lewis’ five-year-old Moon Over Menah in the Benchmark 58 Handicap (1408m).

After settling in the second half of the field on the gelding, Presits must have been pleasantly surprised when the field fanned on the home turn, leaving her with an uninterrupted run.

Moon Over Menah, with only 52kg and a 4.5kg advantage over $2.80 favorite Liberty Fields, outgunned him to give his rider the 19th win of her career.

The Zariz gelding is certainly proving a bargain buy for his trainer, who paid only $1750 for him online in late 2019.

He has now won two races for Lewis – and both have been at Bathurst.

. Today’s treble continued the momentum of Hawkesbury trainers since the beginning of the new year.

Fifteen winners – and 62 overall so far this season – have been prepared at Hawkesbury since January 1.

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