An under-rated filly and a lucky owner enjoyed Gr II $100,000 Eight Carat Classic success at Ellerslie yesterday.
Cambridge trainer Roger James was quick to admit he "underestimated" talented O'Reilly filly Hera, while he was delighted she could win for his "lucky owner" Ron Dixon and his wife Fran.
Dixon's first horse with James was Tethys, who won on debut as a two-year-old at Awapuni on Boxing Day in 1990.
A $10,000 buy, Tethys went on to win the Gr I Avondale Cup, launching a powerful owner-trainer partnership.
Among those that followed were gallopers the quality of Cronus, Hades, Skoozi Please, Kaatoon and now Hera.
"Ron's been such a lucky owner. We've had a great run together," James said.
"That's a huge win. I've underestimated her. She's only small in stature but she was only small in pricetag as well, which makes it even sweeter."
James paid $28,000 for Hera on behalf of the Dixons but only on the behest of his partner Sally Gumbley.
"I disregarded her because I thought she was a but too small but Sally took me back to her," James said.
Yesterday's win came in her third start in stakes company, having won the Listed Foal Stakes at Ellerslie as a two-year-old then finished second to Rising Romance in the Listed Trevor Eagle Memorial at Ellerslie last month.
"We took her pretty quietly at the beginning of spring. She didn't furnish like I'd hoped but I think we're getting the dividends now. It was a good effort today. There were some pretty highly-touted filly. We'll take it one race at a time with her. She's a little filly but I think she'll get there."
Hera gave Central Districts apprentice Mick Dee his first stakes win.
He gave her a lovely trip in fourth place, going up to challenge in the straight, hitting the lead before favourite Costa Viva went past her and looked set to win.
"That was sheer guts," James said, watching the replay of Hera fighting back to regain the lead and defeat the Gr I 1000 Guineas by a neck.
Whether Hera can reach the heights of Gr I winners Tethys, Cronus and Hades, and Gr II winners Skoozi Please and Kaatoon has yet to be seen but the Dixons are sure to enjoy finding out.
Wellingtonian Ron Dixon, who runs the civil engineering contracting company Dixon & Dunlop Ltd and is a former Wellington Racing Club chairman, volunteers Cronus as the yardstick.
"I loved Cronus. He was a lovely horse and he took us everywhere. We had nine trips away with him, to Australia and Hong Kong, and he paid his way every time," Dixon said.
Dee, 17, only picked up the ride on raceday morning after visiting Australian jockey Josh Adams was hospitalised with a lung infection.
"I'm just pleased the connections gave me the opportunity," Dee said.
"I got a sweet trip but when she got headed at the top of the straight, I thought I'd only run second but she really fought back gamely."
Dee had his first ride at Stratford on New Year's Eve last year so was celebrating his first Group win less than a year since he began riding.
- Waikato Times