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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


Updated: Nov 6, 2023

SATURDAY: November 4, 2023: JAMES Ponsonby had been there before, but it was Mitch and Desiree Kearney’s first visit to Wagga.

And for both stables the trip was worthwhile yesterday, each returning home with a winner.

Ponsonby continued his excellent season and produced a brilliant training performance to land the Class 1/Maiden Plate first-up with Semper Fortis ($7.50) at 1600m.

Team Kearney won the Stan Sadleir Stakes (1400m) with $31 roughie Mycah Leon, who led and gave his opposition no chance to run him down.

Despite not having raced since June, Ponsonby had the well-bred Tavistock five-year-old Semper Fortis (Jason Lyon) primed for a big showing on resumption.

Despite being slow to begin, Lyon quickly had him into a good position and the gelding responded gamely to clinch a narrow victory from Sweet Tycoon ($16) and Motorace ($7).

A $140,000 yearling buy in 2020 for Busuttin Racing, Semper Fortis won a Moonee Valley Maiden (1600m) in March last year and also was placed three times from nine starts before being placed on the market after failing first-up over 1400m at Cranbourne in September last year.

Ponsonby, who has been successful with online buys, subsequently purchased him the following month for $12,000 and gave him a break.

Semper Fortis had seven unplaced runs – five of them at the provincials – earlier this year before his trainer gave him another rest.

“We had been keeping him quiet at home to have a crack first up, but it looks like we might have taken the wrong price,” Ponsonby said afterwards.

“Never mind, he did a good job even though he didn’t want anything further at his first run back.”

Semper Fortis was Ponsonby’s fifth winner of the season, and all have been on different tracks.

Walk Up Start at Gundagai was his first winner of the new racing year, followed by Socrates at Gosford, Sandastan at Corowa and Grenoble at Bathurst.

Like Ponsonby, Team Kearney doesn’t mind travelling either with their horses – but this was their Wagga debut and the 35th track they have raced on.

James Innes Jnr replaced an indisposed Heavelon Van Der Hoven on Mycah Leon ($31), and took bad luck out of the equation by making the running.

He gave a good kick in the straight and never looked in danger, easily defeating Mathrin ($14) and $2.25 favorite Rocket Tiger.

Mycah Leon backed up after finishing fourth (beaten only one and a half lengths) with 64kg over 1600m at Mudgee last Saturday.

“Digger McLellan rode him at Mudgee and suggested we should step him up in grade with a much lighter weight (55kg at Wagga),” Mitch Kearney said.

“It all worked out well.”

Mycah Leon had previously proved he could back up successfully when a Newcastle 1400m winner in late August at $61, with Van Der Hoven aboard, after also finishing fourth eight days earlier at Scone.

That was the husband and wife training partnership’s breakthrough victory after a winless five months, and the couple also scored with Forum One at Newcastle on October 14.

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