Caitlyn’s Keeping her lead

SHE set the track alight during her heat and nothing changed in the final as Caitlyn Keeping flew home on a wet track to seal a Bathurst Gold Cup (520 metres) victory on Friday.

CUP CHAMP: Minister for Racing Paul Toole, Charmaine Roberts and Shayne Stiff with Bathurst Gold Cup winner Caitlyn Keeping. Photos: ALEXANDER GRANT

CUP CHAMP: Minister for Racing Paul Toole, Charmaine Roberts and Shayne Stiff with Bathurst Gold Cup winner Caitlyn Keeping. Photos: ALEXANDER GRANT

Caitlyn Keeping ($2.40 favourite), trained by Dubbo’s Charmaine Roberts, entered the final as the fastest qualifier and was touted as the best chance to lead the field around the opening turn.

The question was whether she could hold that advantage for the rest of the race.

Caitlyn Keeping did indeed find the front going by the winning post for the first time, and the box three starter never looked troubled during the remainder of the $15,000 final at Kennerson Park.

Double Up Dee ($10.90, Paul Braddon) produced the run of the race to edge out Kitboolou Corza ($28, Glen Prestwidge) for the runner-up position but Caitlyn Keeping was a cut above.

It wasn’t a race to remember for the next best-backed runners of the race, Oxley Rebel ($7.40) and Little Digger ($2.60), who came across early trouble and had no chance of figuring in the winning picture. They were fourth and fifth respectively.

The rain did leave Roberts somewhat concerned about whether her front runner could stave off a classy field of contenders.

“We’re over the moon. She’s improved heaps,” she said.

“We do the rain badly but it’s not good on race night, and certainly for a front runner like her. You don’t want backmarkers behind us like Little Digger chasing us but luckily for us they copped a check and were spat out the back.

“The track’s in brilliant condition but when you’re a front runner like that you want to be sitting on top of the track, not plowing in mud. But to her credit she went enormous.”

Outside of a scorching Caitlyn Keeping, Kitboolou Corza was one of the best runners away and managed to hold out Que Fever for second going into the opening turn.

Inside starters Little Digger and Oxley Rebel came together along the rail and wiped off speed during the journey through the bend.

Double Up Dee looked a little lost during the early stages of the race but recovered around outside of the field to offer up a challenge to Kitboolou Corza across the back of the track.

Caitlyn Keeping extended her lead to four lengths on the bend for home and had more than enough left in reserve to hold off the field over the closing 100m.

Her winning time in the rainy weather was 29.94 seconds, only four hundredths shy of the time she qualified with.

The win is Caitlyn Keeping’s biggest since her $55,000 Black Top Final win last August.