Prior to the running of Monday’s $30,000 Lexus of Parramatta Canola Cup (2100m), esteemed harness racing commentator Greg Hayes declared it the best field to contest the race in its esteemed history.
So it was fitting that a former president of the Eugowra club would walk away with the spoils.
I’m With Lexy may be trained and driven by Bernie Hewitt at George’s Plains, but he was bred, reared and is raced by Lex Crosby, a man who is a big reason why the Canola Cup has risen to the level it has.
There were emotional scenes after the race as I’m With Lexy ($5.40) held off a brave Pay Me Sam ($6.30, Gavin Fitzpatrick), which was three wide without cover for the final lap of the race.
“This is one of the main races we target, and to win with one of Lex’s horses is a fantastic result,” said Hewitt, who claimed his fourth win in the race as a trainer and third as a driver.
“We looked at this series about three months ago with her, and when a plan comes off like it has it is very satisfying. I actually trained her dam for Lex so it’s quite a story.
“Eugowra is only a small town but they put on a heck of a carnival here, and to come here again and win it is a massive thrill.”
The four-year-old Roll With Joe (USA) x Lexy’s Laughing mare won the race at the start when she was able to hold the lead from barrier one, despite pressure being applied by Trilight Brigade ($6.90, Mat Rue) and then Miss Patriot ($2.60 fav, Todd McCarthy).
After zipping through the lead time in 36.1s, Hewitt was able to apply the breaks through the first half of the last mile.
Splits of 31.2s and 31.1s not only ensured that I’m With Lexy was able to get a breather, it also meant that when Hewitt elected to up the tempo it broke the field up.
A third-quarter split of 28.3s enabled I’m With Lexy to establish a break over Miss Patriot, leaving it to Pay Me Sam, which led-up the three-wide line to do the chasing.
Miss Patriot got a second wind and went looking for a run on the pegs but was disappointed, and while Pay Me Same lunged over the concluding stages he couldn’t reel in the leader, which held on to salute by a half-head.
Miss Patriot was a further 5.5m away in third place, with Sky Diamond ($26.80, Neil Day) rounding out the first four.
“I thought if I could hold the lead she would run well and it would be a matter of if she was good enough to hold them off, and she was,” Hewitt said.
“She’s developed into a really nice mare and I think she will only keep getting better.
“She had to burn early to hold the lead and then she ran a really solid last lap so she well and truly earned the win.”