Justa Charlie (Will Gordon) came out on top in an exciting finish to the Hawke's Bay Steeplechase.
Waverley trainer Harvey Wilson hit a career high when Justa Charlie took out the $50,000 Simon’s 50th Birthday Hawke’s Bay Steeplechase at Hastings this afternoon.
The previous biggest win for Wilson, who trains a small team of under a dozen horses, was the $40,000 Listed Tauranga Classic with Barcelona in his first season of training in 2005. He has had a total of 41 winners from 329 runners.
Justa Charlie won a maiden steeplechase at his first attempt last October, and he emerged as a rising star at Te Rapa in May – winning the Ken & Roger Browne Memorial Steeplechase, then finishing second to Max in the Waikato Steeplechase.
Today he turned the tables on that runner, coming out on top in an exciting finish to the 4800-metre showpiece.
Rider Will Gordon sat well back in the 12-horse field on Justa Charlie as Thenamesbond, That’s How It Goes and Kings Deep set the tempo.
Gordon asked the Shinko King gelding to move a bit closer approaching the home turn, and he made his bid at the top of the straight.
Horses fanned out right across the track, with Justa Charlie challenged by Wise Men Say, Chocolate Fish and the gallant Kings Deep, but Justa Charlie dug deep and held a long-neck advantage to the line, to Gordon’s obvious delight.
“It’s a real thrill, just awesome,” said Wilson, a former New Zealand equestrian representative who has trained a career-best eight winners so far this season. “Will gave him a great ride.
“He’s raced by some great people and they let us do our own thing. My wife Ann does most of the work.”
Justa Charlie has now had 65 starts for nine wins, 20 placings and more than $175,000 in prize-money. He has won twice on the flat, four times over hurdles and another three from just four starts over the bigger fences.
Gordon also won one of the day’s maiden hurdle events on El Disparo, while he and Wilson teamed up for a third placing in the Hawke’s Bay Hurdle with It’s A Wonder.
Last year’s Great Northern Steeplechaser winner Wise Men Say ran a much-improved race for second, with Chocolate Fish third, Kings Deep fourth and Thenamesbond fifth. The favourite Max sat at the tail of the field for most of the race and made up some late ground for sixth.