Rookie Newcastle trainer Jay Hopkins made a direct hit with his second shot when veteran Got Unders claimed a breakthrough group race victory in the Cameron Handicap (1500m) on Friday.
Got Unders was a surprise second to Happy Clapper in the group 3 Newcastle Newmarket in March this year for Hopkins, who has only six horses in work and has been training for about a year.
Despite a poor last-start performance when 13th at Rosehill on Saturday, the eight-year-old gelding was entered for the group 3 $150,000 Cameron in what Hopkins said was “a throw at the stumps” on his home track.
Given a saloon passage by jockey Tim Clark into the race behind the Kris Lees-trained topweight Sound Proposition, the $26 chance wore down the New Zealand group 1 winner to get the nod on the post.
It was Hopkins’ first group race win, at his second attempt, and the $84,000 prize was easily his biggest so far.
Hopkins, who is married to Newcastle Racecourse veterinarian Hannah Hopkins, bought the horse as a weanling and part-owns it in a family syndicate.
“I didn’t know what happened last start, but it’s great. Unbelievable actually,” Hopkins said.
“I always give him a chance, he always tries.
“When he sat third, coming around the bend, I said to Hannah, ‘Geez, we’re travelling. We could run a hole here’.
“He kept coming and coming and coming.
“I don’t think anyone near us would have any hearing left.”
Hopkins, who worked under John O’Shea, came to Newcastle from Coffs Harbour three years ago.
He also learnt his trade under East Maitland’s Ken Lantry, who trained Got Unders, before he went it alone.
As for what was next for Got Unders, Hopkins said: “I wouldn’t have a clue.”
“I didn’t expect to win so I didn’t have anything planned out.
What a thrill for local trainer Jay Hopkins, winning the G3 Cameron Handicap with Got Unders. Congratulations! 👏 pic.twitter.com/2gOJUod8N6— Sky Racing (@SkyRacingAU) September 15, 2017
“I was probably going out to the bush somewhere.”
Hopkins’ family made the trip from Coffs Harbour to watch their horse run in the Newmarket but were not at the track on Friday.
“A few of them are sick. Mum and Dad have the flu, so that should cheer them up,” he said.
“I said, ‘It will do something today because there’s no one here’.
“They are all in it. They’d had a few horses before but they were all no good until this one.”
The seventh win in 52 starts took Got Unders’ prizemoney past $400,000.
Lees was pleased with the effort of Sound Proposition, which started as the $3.70 second favourite and worked four wide early to sit outside pacesetter Special Missile ($2.70).
Carrying 59 kilograms, Sound Proposition gave away 5kg to Got Unders and the difference told at the finish.
Lees said the Epsom Handicap remained a possibility for Sound Proposition, which finished almost five lengths clear of next best, Godolphin’s Spectroscope.
The John Thompson-trained favourite Special Missile, which was on a five-race winning streak into its first black-type assignment, faded to finish fourth.
“Special Missile has had enough, he’s had a long prep and he’s done very well,” Thompson said.