By sports editor Russell Bennett
“He’s not that big, but he’s got a mighty big heart.”
That was the fitting race call that echoed down the straight late on Sunday afternoon as the boy from Cranbourne, Craig Williams, piloted home ‘Dr Drill’ to a stirring victory in the $400,000 TAB Cranbourne Cup in front of a bumper crowd.
The pre-race favourite hardly had it all his own way – checked at the first turn – but he settled into his rhythm and Williams expertly powered him home down the straight.
Exploding out of the final turn, Dr Drill showed a brilliant turn of speed to power past Brett Prebble aboard the Trent Busuttin-trained ‘Savvy Oak’, which led for much of the journey before fading to finish last.
Speaking at the trophy presentation Ciaron Maher – one half of the training duo behind Dr Drill, along with David Eustace – described his horse as “a real revelation”.
“His form in Europe was over a mile-and-a-half and since he’s been out here he seems a lot sharper so we’ve still got that up our sleeve – he can stretch out and I think he’s going to be a lovely horse,” he said.
“He seems very genuine.”
Maher even hinted that punters could even see Dr Drill again in the Sportsbet Ballarat Cup over 2000 metres on 23 November.
Williams, meanwhile, spoke of his pride in representing his hometown in its showpiece event.
“Of course, this is where I grew up – (I went to) Cranbourne Primary School, and then I went to Cranbourne High, which is now Cranbourne Secondary College,” he said.
“It’s great – it’s fantastic that Country Racing Victoria stands as a big part of the racing demographics here in Victoria, and it’s great to see the support of TAB and the investment of the money, and it’s fantastic to see the good weather and the great crowd come out here today.
“For me – I was fortunate. Dr Drill raced so well today and he was very gallant. He’s been very well managed by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace and the team, and they’ve just placed him so well, been very patient, and got the rewards with him.
“I’m looking forward to a bright future for him.”
With the win, the five-year-old bay gelding backed up his victory from last month’s Monstar Foundation Handicap over 1900 metres at Rosehill. He’s now won six of his 19 starts.
In the other feature race on TAB Cranbourne Cup day, the $100,000 Apache Cat Classic, ‘Tavisan’ saluted for trainers Mick Price and Michael Kent Jr as jockey Jamie Kah claimed her third victory of the day.
Tavisan got the jump and had prime position around the turn in the 1000-metre sprint. He led by two lengths coming down the straight but looked to be swamped with 100 metres still to run as Patrick Moloney, aboard ‘Fine Dane’, made an incredible last-ditch effort.
But the brave Tavisan had enough up his sleeve to hold on.
In claiming her treble for the day, Kah told racing.com how proud she was to win the Apache Cat – having never sat on Tavisan before.
“A big thank you to Mick (Price) and Mick Kent Jr for putting me on this boy,” she said.
“He jumped to the front and did it all himself.
“He got away with it quite easily in front and he’s just a really lovely animal to ride, and god he’s got some gate speed which helps him out there.”
Kah stopped short of saying Tavisan was troubled in the race’s closing stages.
“He sort of does all he has to,” she explained.
“When that horse came up on the inside he fought again – it was a really tough win.”
Earlier on TAB Cranbourne Cup weekend, ‘No Effort’ claimed Friday night’s $100,000 Pinker Pinker plate on another perfect day for racing.
Leading around the final turn, No Effort was threatened – and even briefly overtaken by ‘Rube Bridges’ – while raging hot favourite ‘Oceanex’ struggled to find a run before a massive late surge.
No Effort had to put in one final one to stay ahead – ultimately saluting by less than half a length from Oceanex and Rube Bridges in third.