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  • John Curtis


THURSDAY: October 21, 2021: HE was highly desired after all!

Hawkesbury trainer Claire Lever had pushed strongly for her recent first-up Goulburn winner Highly Desired to gain a spot in Saturday week’s $700,000 The Four Pillars (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens as the remaining places in the 18-horse field were gradually filling.

And it has paid off.

Highly Desired has clinched one of the last two spots, giving Lever two representatives in the inaugural staging of the Benchmark 68 Handicap to be run under Midway conditions.

The gelding joins stablemate Grace Bay, and Lever has confirmed jockeys for both horses.

Josh Parr has been booked for Grace Bay, and Kathy O’Hara has the mount on Highly Desired.

This means Hawkesbury has three Four Pillars contenders; Edward Cummings’ Sunborn joining the Lever pair.

In only her second season of training, Lever has another double chance to snare a big prizemoney race, having also had two runners (Diva Bella and Grace Bay) in the $500,000 Provincial Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick in April.

“It’s exciting to get two of my horses into this new race,” Lever said this afternoon.

“Highly Desired is such a strong gelding, and the form around his Goulburn win in a 1300m Benchmark 64 Handicap has been confirmed (runner-up Showtime Lady running second on the Kensington track yesterday and third placegetter Caesars Palace scoring at Hawkesbury today).

“He has an excellent second-up record (two wins and as many placings from five starts), so there are a few positives with him.”

Lever was pleased with Grace Bay’s fifth to Blesk in a Benchmark 72 Handicap (1300m) on the Kensington track yesterday.

“The track was pretty firm, and the winner ran a track record,” she said.

“It was a strong race, and the form from it should work out well.

“Grace Bay has pulled up well and will go into The Four Pillars third-up.”

Josh Parr was indisposed yesterday and unable to ride Grace Bay, who was partnered instead by Sunborn’s Four Pillars rider Glyn Schofield.

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