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  • John Curtis


TUESDAY: June 22, 2021: MATT Vella described his inexperienced two-year-old Sniper Legend as a “good thinker” in the lead-up to his resumption at Hawkesbury today.

Fair to say the trainer is an even better thinker!

Vella knew when Sniper Legend had to be on course for the Lander Toyota Provincial & Country Maiden Handicap (1100m), and loaded him onto a float and drove him around the back roads for half an hour or so before arriving at the track.

“I had to be a bit smarter,” Vella explained after $550,000 yearling buy Sniper Legend defied a remarkable betting drift to break through at only his second start.

“I came up with that trick not long ago because sometimes my horses don’t race as well at Hawkesbury as they do elsewhere because they don’t have far to travel.”

A dominant $2.15 pre-post favorite, Sniper Legend blew to $3.80 ($4 was bet), then proceeded to blow away his rivals.

On his best behaviour, the gelded son of 2016 Golden Slipper winner Capitalist was first out, then showed a nice turn of foot in the straight to put the issue beyond doubt.

He had more than one and a half lengths up his sleeve at the post over fellow Hawkesbury rival, Blake Ryan’s A Land Of ($15), with Charlemagne ($7) third.

Vella prepared Sniper Legend for Inglis’ Ready2Race Sale at Riverside last October, and was pleasantly surprised when The Everest winner Classique Legend’s owner Bon Ho purchased him and left him with the experienced Hawkesbury horseman.

But the youngster has given Vella plenty of headaches with his reluctance to load into the barriers, though not at home.

“I did a lot of work with him because I knew the horse could gallop,” Vella said.

“It was very rewarding to see how he behaved and raced today.

“The barrier boys gave us a good report. Sniper Legend actually went halfway in then had to be backed out when his reins got caught on the side of the stall.

“After being backed out, thankfully he went in again without any drama.”

Vella received a “well done” message from Sniper Legend’s owner, and will look for another suitable race for the gelding in coming weeks.

“We’ll probably stick to the provincials unless there is a suitable midweek race for him,” he said.

Sniper Legend’s rider Jason Collett clinched a double to extend his lead in the Hawkesbury premiership – but his second winner didn’t come with anywhere near the same ease as Vella’s talented youngster.

Collett had to “win” the following race, the Pink Finss Charity Maiden Plate (1100m), on Lake Kastoria ($7.50) in the stewards’ room.

New Zealand-bred three-year-old filly Lake Kastoria was on debut and finished second to $2 favorite Fox Fighter, but RacingNSW stewards agreed with Collett’s assertion that she would have won but for interference on a couple of occasions in the straight and amended the placings.

Fox Fighter’s rider Sam Clipperton was later suspended on two careless riding charges; the term between June 27 and July 8 to be served concurrently.

With only two meetings remaining before season’s end, Collett (16 wins) now holds a four-win advantage over last year’s winner Rachel King and Tommy Berry.

Apprentice Tyler Schiller drew level with injured stablemate Tom Sherry in the junior riding premiership when he won the Independent Liquor Group 2YO Maiden Plate (1400m) on Fox Fighter’s stablemate Tympanist ($14).

. Jockey Josh Parr was fined $1000 by stewards after the completion of an inquiry which began at the Hawkesbury meeting on May 4.

Stewards observed Parr using his mobile phone in the jockeys’ room on a number of occasions during the Wyong meeting on April 29.

In assessing the penalty, they took into account the jockey’s guilty plea, his forthright evidence and the content retrieved from his phone did not reveal any integrity concerns, but nonetheless were concerned with the number of times he had used the phone during the day.

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