ENGLISH jockey Rachel King already had an affinity with Newcastle before guiding Lanciato to a thrilling victory in the Newmarket Handicap (1400m) on Friday.
Her love for the city only grew with the first group win of her career and a likely ticket to ride in the $3 million Doncaster Mile.
King, the partner of Newcastle born-and-raised group 1-winning jockey Blake Spriggs, showed nerves of steel to pull the $3.80 favourite out from behind a pack of horses with almost 400m remaining to find space.
The Mark Newnham-trained five-year-old gelding did the rest, unleashing a brilliant finishing burst to beat the Chris Waller-trained Mister Sea Wolf by more than a length.
It was a special win for King, who rode Lanciato to victory in the listed Carrington Stakes and is now in the box seat to steer him in the Doncaster, which he qualified for with Friday’s success.
“It’s my first group winner anywhere and my biggest winner by far and it was great to do it for Mark as well, because I’ve obviously had a big association with Mark right from the start,” King said.
What a finish!!— Sky Racing (@SkyRacingAU) March 9, 2018
Lanciato makes it three on the trot with a blazing finish right over the top in the Group 3 Newmarket Handicap at Newcastle. @RachelK11 always knew he had the turn of foot, and gets it done for Mark Newnham. Well done!! pic.twitter.com/ANuPLwEQzi
“So this is really good and the owners have been really good to me as well.
“I think the first premiership I won was here at Newcastle, the apprentices’ premiership, so it’s definitely been a good track for me and I always love coming up here.
“[Blake and I] try to come up here as much as possible, so it was great to do it here. We both love Newcastle.”
King hoped to keep the ride for the April 7 Doncaster at Randwick, in which Lanciato had 50 kilograms and was a $26 chance on Friday.
Sydney trainer Newnham, a group 2 winner last year with Diamond Tathagata, said “it would be hard to take her off the horse now”.
“The other thing is you’re in a very limited pool of jockeys at that weight, and we’ve got someone there who has faith in the horse,” Newnham said.
“When you ride a horse like that, you’ve got to have faith because it’s hard to hold your nerve back in the field like that.”
Newnham said Lanciato was “an easy horse to train but a hard horse to watch”.
“He’s got a great finish,” he said. “Today I thought at the 200 that he had too much to do, but when there was 50 to go, he had them well and truly covered.”
He hoped Lanciato would avoid a weight penalty for the win heading into the Doncaster.
“I had a group 2 win last year, so another group win is great, and we’ll try to chase a group 1 now,” he said.
“Hopefully we get an unusually dry autumn because his form on top of the ground is a lot better.
“On a dry track with no weight, he’s a chance.”
King said: “It will be a big step up again, but he keeps doing it. Every time Mark asks him a question, he’s answered, so hopefully he can do it again. And he’ll have no weight in the Doncaster.”
Of the run on Friday, Newnham said: “I said to Rachel before the race that he just needs no bad luck. He’s going that well, he’s just needs a clear run at them, and he’ll do the rest, and when they turned for home and she was between horses, I thought, don’t go in there.
“But she did the right thing. She came back, waited and got him balanced and the horse did the rest.”
King was repaid for her faith in the horse.
“At the top of straight when I saw a wall of horses in front of me, I thought, I’m not taking any risks, I know how good he is,” she said.
“I had to actually come back a length to get behind that other horse and get around him. I knew once he got out, he’d get over the top of them. He just gave me such a good feel from the 400. It was very good.”
King has had great success with the Gai Waterhouse-Adrian Bott stable but she has out-ridden her claim and comes out of her time as an apprentice in August.
“It’s a really good time to do it,” she said of her breakthrough group win.
“Because I just lost my claim in the city, so it’s definitely perfect timing.”