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  • John Curtis


SATURDAY: October 9, 2021: TWO down…..and one to go?

Hawkesbury trainer Claire Lever has won with her only two starters the last two days – Olympic Time at the Port Macquarie Cup Showcase meeting yesterday and Highly Desired at Goulburn today.

Diva Bella, also her only runner at her home track tomorrow, can give her a “perfect three” by scoring in the Lander Toyota Benchmark 64 Handicap (1100m).

In fact, Lever’s form is such that she will be shooting for four straight wins as she also scored with Grace Bay at the Wyong meeting on September 30.

It has been a wonderful start to the 2021-22 season for the former jockey, who took out her licence last year and won seven races in her inaugural season of training.

Lever was the first Hawkesbury trainer to “break the ice” in this new racing year, winning with She’s Smart at the Forbes Cup meeting on August 1.

She has had 15 starters in just over two months for four wins and three placings.

The Showcase meeting at Port Macquarie proved the right call as recent acquisition Olympic Time, formerly with Kris Lees at Newcastle, broke through in the CG&E Maiden Plate (1200m).

Ridden by Lee Magorrian, the four-year-old took control of the race and was never seriously threatened, defeating Devil’s Inn ($6) and Evocator ($5.50).

Olympic Time was having his third start for his new trainer and has shown steady improvement with each run.

The only surprising part about the gelding’s victory was the odds bet about him.

He started a $4.60 co-favorite after much better was offered, yet he was dropping back from provincial to country grade after leading and finishing third to Crystal Waters in a 1300m Maiden at Hawkesbury on September 23.

“I was thrilled to win with Olympic Time for his owners, the Hannan family and Otto Wiener,” Lever said today.

“They are nice people, and Olympic Time is the first horse I have trained for them. Now they have given me a second as well.

“Olympic Time isn’t a superstar, but is doing a good job and we’ll look for another suitable race for him in the coming weeks.”

Olympic Time is the only foal of her dam, the Savabeel mare Leebavas (spelt backwards), who was purchased in New Zealand but hurt herself and never raced.

She died from a colic attack three years ago.

Lever prepared former country seven-year-old Highly Desired for a first-up tilt at the Benchmark 64 Handicap (1300m) at Goulburn today – and it paid off.

Ridden by talented Newcastle apprentice Dylan Gibbons, Highly Desired ($4.60) made light of his 58kg and a wide run to defeat fellow Hawkesbury representative, Brad Widdup’s Showtime Lady ($2.70 favorite), to post the seventh win of his 32-start career.

Highly Desired had won the Coonabarabran Cup (1600m) on heavy ground last October before joining Lever’s team.

The gelding went into today’s race first-up on the back of an 800m Hawkesbury trial victory on September 27 when he beat well-performed Godolphin pair Tailleur and Varda.

Highly Desired is one of four horses Lever entered for the inaugural $700,000 The Four Pillars (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on October 30 – and understandably she hopes his Goulburn success has boosted his chances of securing a spot in the field.

Lever has similar hopes with Diva Bella, who has taken benefit from one start this preparation, and will be partnered by Kathy O’Hara (Highly Desired’s rider in his recent Hawkesbury trial).

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