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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


TUESDAY: May 28, 2024: JAMES Ponsonby stood in the winner’s stall at Kembla Grange today more than a bit shellshocked.

Not simply that he had trained a 50-1 winner at the provincials, but also that his roughie Semper Fortis had beaten Sydney’s two major stables, Chris Waller and Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott.

“When you draw the outside, you don’t expect to beat those big stables,” Ponsonby said en route home.

“I don’t have the quality of horse which they do, and don’t pay more than $15,000 for mine.

“It was a shock allright, but a very pleasant shock.”

Semper Fortis started at $41 (but returned $51.70 on in the Benchmark 64 Handicap (1600m), and defied a wide run to upset Waller’s $3.70 favorite Pink Baroque, with the Waterhouse-Bott representative Golden Pierro ($13) third.

Ponsonby paid $12,000 online through Inglis Digital for former Victorian Semper Fortis in October 2022, and has now won three races with the Tavistock five-year-old.

“Since he had that good campaign last time (Semper Fortis led home Ponsonby’s first maiden trifecta from stablemates Grenoble and Will To Excel at Orange on December 28), he has really found his mojo again.

“Though he was beaten first-up at Newcastle over 1500m earlier in the month, he had gained nice benefit from that run and was beaten only five lengths after leading.

“The form from the race has turned out well with the winner Sonofdec scoring again at the Scone metropolitan meeting and now going to Queensland for the Derby at Eagle Farm on Saturday, and Six Foot Song (fifth that day) winning at Newcastle last Saturday.”

Ponsonby also was pleased that he was able to provide jockey Jay Ford with his first winner for the stable.

“We’ve been able to get Jay only in recent times, and it was good to see him win his first race for us.”

Semper Fortis was Ponsonby’s 14th winner this season, justifying his move from Orange to Hawkesbury 12 months ago.

“To be honest, I was a bit nervous about the move, but I’m very glad I made it,” he said.

“The facilities at Hawkesbury are terrific.

“I trundled home with eight winners each of the last two seasons, so to get 14 so far this season from a provincial base is fantastic. I’m thrilled.”

Ponsonby is looking to step Semper Fortis up to 2100m next at Wyong, and says there are some nice Midway Handicaps over ground in town during winter if his gelding can improve his benchmark rating.

Whilst Ponsonby went to Kembla Grange, fellow Hawkesbury trainer Fabio Martino made a much longer haul to Armidale with another ex-Victorian– and it was worth it.

Martino claimed his fourth winner of the season when his three-year-old filly Tokyo Star ($3.30) landed the Class 1 Handicap (1400m).

Ridden by apprentice Braith Nock, Tokyo Star was strongest to the line to post her second success from only three starts since being transferred to Martino, overhauling Wyong trainer Damien Lane’s $2 favorite All Too Sneaky.

The Ponsonby and Martino winners lifted to 155 the number prepared by the Hawkesbury training base so far this season.

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