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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


THURSDAY: July 14, 2022: IT was nearly nine years ago that Claire Lever’s riding career reached a peak with a city breakthrough on Footy Fan at Rosehill Gardens.

Now her training career has also yielded a similar result – this time at Warwick Farm yesterday with the resilient seven-year-old Highly Desired.

However, the Hawkesbury trainer wasn’t on course to share in the celebrations after the gelding led throughout in the Benchmark 72 Handicap (1600m), and her trainer father Richard Nutman ably held the fort in her absence.

“Claire is away having a few days break, but was thrilled to win her first race in town and especially with this horse,” Nutman said.

“Highly Desired had been runner-up three times previously at city meetings (including the Hawkesbury Saturday stand-alone in late April).

“They both deserved a change of luck in town.”

Apprentice Tyler Schiller took Highly Desired ($3.50 favorite) to the front from the jump yesterday, and controlled the race.

The tough gelding never really looked in danger and scored comfortably from Cyborg ($10) and Nicochet ($19).

Highly Desired clinched the ninth victory of his 43-start career, and has also been placed 11 times and earned just over $284,000 prizemoney.

The rising eight-year-old put the seal on a breakout year for Lever, who clinched her 14th winner in 2021-2022, and 21st in not quite two full seasons since launching her training career.

Grace Bay, ridden by husband Chad, was her first winner at the Snake Gully Cup meeting at Gundagai in November, 2020.

Highly Desired’s city breakthrough came hard on the heels of stablemate Jukebox Flyer’s excellent performance at Caulfield last Saturday when runner-up in a 2YO Handicap (1100m) against her own sex.

The Jukebox filly, a Newcastle debut 900m winner in February, has returned to her Hawkesbury stable.

During a riding career which netted 119 winners, Lever won a Benchmark 75 Handicap (1500m) for fillies and mares at Rosehill Gardens in September, 2013 on Footy Fan.

She rode the grey mare in four of her five victories, also including the Mother’s Gift (run today on the Grafton Cup program) that same year.

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