Courtesy of abc.net.au
Queensland trainer Natalie McCall became the first woman to win the $1.36 million Stradbroke Handicap at Eagle Farm when River Lad saluted with champion jockey Damien Oliver on board.
McCall captured her first Group One win when River Lad edged out fellow Queensland galloper Temple of Boom by 0.1 lengths in a head-bobbing finish after the pair set the pace in the race.
Filly Srikandi enjoyed a beautiful run behind the speed but was unable to reel in the first two, finishing third. The runner-up’s stablemate Spirit Of Boom was game under his top-weight of 58kg to finish fourth.
The backmarkers were unable to make any impression in the race.
River Lad, starting at $32, was aided by a top ride from champion hoop Oliver who was able to cross from the wide barrier of 19.
It was Oliver’s first win in Queensland’s flagship race. He picked up the ride when Tim Bell elected to ride Sacred Star.
McCall took River Lad to Sydney in February and was tempted to keep him there after his second to class mare Appearance in the Expressway Stakes.
“The temptation was there to keep him in Sydney and race for the big prize money at The Championships,” McCall said.
“But the Stradbroke was a race I always wanted to win and we decided to bring him home and set him for this race.”
McCall, the daughter of trainer Ray McCall, admitted she had a soft spot for the Stradbroke after she strapped the 2001 winner Crawl for trainer John Hawkes.
But she thought her hopes were dashed when River Lad was hit by a mud clod when seventh in the Victory Stakes at Eagle Farm.
“We knew he was back on track when he won the BRC Sprint,” she said.
“It was a setback when Tim Bell elected to ride Sacred Star but we got one of the best in Damien.”
Oliver said it was wonderful to win his first Stradbroke en route to Mauritius where he has a short term contract.
“We were able to get across and then we were able to set our own pace,” Oliver said.
Trainer Tony Gollan was thrilled with the run of Temple Of Boom who will now go for a spell before being prepared for a spring campaign.
His fellow Group One-winning stablemate and younger brother Spirit Of Boom is off to stud at Eureka on the Darling Downs.