Newcastle trainer Phil Atkins is eyeing a Saturday Sydney win with Star Crossed after the three-year-old overcame an unexpected heavy surface for a city breakthrough at Canterbury on Wednesday.
The Starcraft gelding led throughout to win the 1100-metre benchmark 72 handicap by a length on a heavy 8 surface, which started the program as a soft 5.
In-form apprentice Nick Heywood took the $2.20 favourite to the front after Atkins changed plans with the deterioration of the track.
“When the track got heavy, that was the plan,” Atkins said of the front-running display. “Before that it was to sit off a couple and let them run if they wanted to.”
Atkins said he would have preferred not to run his stable’s best on a heavy surface but he was confident he could handle the going. Star Crossed, now with two wins in six starts, was second on heavy going at Randwick in June last year at his second career start.
Atkins, who has between six and eight horses in work, said Star Crossed would “probably go to a Saturday race in a fortnight or in three weeks. We’ll see how he handles that Saturday grade and we might step up from there.”
At Grafton, Scone trainer Brett Cavanough was a winner with Avroson before stable star The Monstar finished a narrow second in the Ramornie Handicap. The Peter and Paul Snowden-trained Calanda held out the topweight on the line.
The carnival continues Thursday with the Grafton Cup, in which Hunter jockeys Robert Thompson (First Crush) and Blake Spriggs (Danjeu) have rides.