It looked like Verne had just been beaten. His rider, Brodie Loy, certainly thought so.
“I didn’t think we won,’’ Loy said.
“As we went past the line I actually gave Avdulla (Brenton, rider of In The Congo) a bit of spray.
“I said ‘ýou could have let me win, I think I need it more than you’.’’
But to everyone’s surprise, most notably Loy, Verne edged out In The Congo by the narrowest of margins in the Fujitsu General Handicap (1200m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
In a deceptive finish, the Annabel Neasham-trained Verne ($3.30 favourite) got his head down right on the line and scored by a nose from In The Congo ($4.80) with more than two lengths to the previously unbeaten Park Avenue ($6.50).
VERNE takes out the first at Randwick for @ANeashamRacing
Jockey Brodie Loy just noses out In The Congo!! pic.twitter.com/SScylv558g
Verne’s win was a significant moment of Loy as it gave the young rider his first city success for 2020-21.
“I’m just very thankful for the opportunity and Annbael’s such a great trainer,’’ Loy said.
“She puts so much confidence in her riders and I’m so happy I could get it done today.
“I actually rode her first three winners as a trainer. Her first three runners were winners so we’ve had a great partnership and I’m just so thankful for the opportunity.
“When I got the call from Annabel to ride Verne, I already had a couple of rides at Newcastle and had to get off them to ride him. He’s going to develop into a nice horse.”
Neasham was at the Stradbroke Handicap meeting at Eagle Farm but took The Sunday Telegraph’s call after Verne’s win and admitted she was as surprised as anyone her youngster had got the judge’s verdict.
In The Congo had led most of the way and seemed to fight off Verne’s challenge into the final 50m only for the photo to go with Neasham’s two-year-old.
Verne reversed a narrow loss to In The Congo when both juveniles made their debut at midweek Kensington meeting last month.
“I didn’t think he got there,’’ Neasham said.
“But I do rate Verne, I think he is a really smart colt in the making.
“He might need the blinkers on next preparation and he still has some furnishing to do.
“He is not the full package yet so we will put him away now and get him ready for spring.’’
Brodie Loy returns to scale on Verne after his first city winner. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Verne, a $300,000 Easter Yearling Sale purchase, has now won successive city races since his debut second placing with Neasham aiming high with the colt in the spring.
“I will aim him at the Golden Rose, that’s the logical step,’’ Neasham said.
“We have the time to get him on the Golden Rose path. He won’t have too long out, he will probably have about three weeks but the owners have a very nice colt on their hands.’’
Neasham said the narrow winning margin should not detract from the strength of the off-season two-year-old race.
“This is a good form race,’’ Neasham said.
“I think In The Congo is a nice, straightforward type of two-year-old and the stable have an opinion of him. The third placegetter Park Avenue has won two races so you would say this form will hold up.’’
Sydney stable representative Todd Pollard said Neasham is making a sensational start to her training career in her inaugural season and also felt the best is yet to come from Verne.
“Annabel’s doing a great job, she’s got herself out there, she’s buying the yearlings herself,’’ Pollard said.
“Verne’s not the finished product yet. You look at him and he’s quite a raw colt so it will be quite exciting to see what he can do.
“It was an enthralling battle and he was just lucky to get his head down at the right time. Well done to Brodie, he’s done the hard work to get the opportunity he has today and he’s nailed it perfectly.
“We’ll give Verne a little break and hopefully he can be as good as what want him to be and there will be some nice races in the spring for him.”
Cummings has high opinion of Gravina
Godolphin trainer James Cummings described promising Gravina as a colt with “something about him’’ after a strong win at Royal Randwick.
But Cummings’s succinct appraisal could also easily apply to boom apprentice rider Reece Jones after he combined with Gravina to win the 50 Year and Members Handicap (1200m)
Both horse and rider are young, emerging talents with Gravina scoring successive city wins and Jones riding his first quartet of Sydney Saturday winners, after Casino Kid, Opacity and New Arrangement also saluted.
Cummings revealed he had a growing opinion of Gravina after the three-year-old colt railed through to win impressively, albeit by a narrow margin from Steel Diamond.
“Gravina attacked the line well and he seems to us to be the type of horse that has a bit more in the locker,’’ Cummings said.
“We feel this colt can continue to race through the grades and hopefully get to higher and higher levels.
“He had a stable incident that forced him to have time off. We have been patient with him, we have been diligent with the rehab that has gone into him and he is a beautifully sound horse now.”
Gravina ($1.60 favourite) settled in behind the leader early, hugged the rails throughout but had to work hard in the drive to the line to edge out Steel Diamond ($7.50) by a half-neck with Ulysses ($12) just over a length away third.
Cummings then took the opportunity to praise Jones for his tactical nous.
“Reece showed great patience,’’ Cummings said.
“My sense after talking to him before the race was that he didn’t allow the horse’s short price to affect how close he felt he might need to be in the run.
“It was a great sign of maturity. He rode the horse to his strengths and ignored the pressures around him which is a good sign.’’
Gravina, a well bred colt by Sebring out of the Street Cry mare Mestastasio, improved his record to three wins and three placings from nine starts with his Randwick success.
Cummings said Gravina’s defeat earlier this campaign when third in a restricted race at Scone was a turning point for the colt.
“The trip away to Scone galvanised this horse,’’ the trainer said.
“I get the sense he has matured a lot and he’s developing a good record. His performances the last two starts have been really quiet promising.
“There was some support for Steel Diamond first-up for a new stable so maybe the run there has some hidden merit like we felt at Scone.
“He’s an interesting colt going somewhere and it will be most interesting to see where he ends up.’’
Originally published asLoy lands first city victory in tight photo
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