Hallelujah Boy finally hit his mark to provide a consolation metropolitan win for Newcastle trainer Kris Lees and Hunter syndicators Australian Bloodstock on Saturday at Randwick.
The former Japanese galloper won the 2000-metre benchmark 87 handicap to breakthrough at his ninth Australian start and for his first victory since Tokyo in February 2016.
The five-year-old entire, a $2.80 favourite, beat Solo Mission by a half-neck in the heavy going to end a frustrating run which included a fourth and fifth in the Provincial Championship heats before fourth in the final, all over 1400m.
“It was a good, tough win,” Lees said.
“He didn’t want any further, but he got the job done. We were keen to get him out to 2000 metres and he handled the heavy ground, so that’s a plus over winter, so we’ll see where we go with him.
“He may have another run for the prep. I’ll just give him a few days and see how he gets over the run. He’s been up a while.”
Lees said it had “just taken a little while to work him out and for him to hit his straps”.
“He was a bit luckless throughout the Provincial Championships series and now we’ve got him out to a distance we always thought he’d run,” he said.
Jockey Jason Collett guided Hallelujah Boy to the win.
"I thought I would lead but then Ashkannd crossed so I settled him second," Collett said.
"He only has a short, sharp sprint on him and I didn't want to use him up too early, and I didn't want to make a long run on him.
"The other horse was coming at me but luckily I had a break. He handled the conditions and was the best of the bunch today."
The victory came as Lees and Australian Bloodstock fell short in different ways at Doomben in the $1.5 million Stradbroke Handicap (1350m) on Saturday.
The Lees-trained Invincible Gem finished ninth after settling back in the field from gate 13. The mare will head to the group 1 Tatts Tiara (1350m) at Doomben against her own sex.
“She had a tough run and was strong late,” Lees said.
“Barriers are very important in those races and she’ll be very competitive come the Tatts Tiara in two weeks.
“She probably wants a bit further but it is what it is.”
Another Australian Bloodstock Japanese import, Danon Liberty, had strong support in betting but was left as first emergency after no late scratchings.
Australian Bloodstock director Luke Murrell said the June 30 Glasshouse Handicap at Sunshine Coast could be the Darren Weir-trained galloper’s first Australian start.
Newcastle trainer Paul Perry’s Perast was the best of the Hunter hopes, taking the early lead and holding on for fifth in the Stradbroke. Perry said the three-year-old, which earned a start with back-to-back black-type wins at Doomben, would go for a good spell before returning for the spring.
“He ran well. I was really happy with him,” Perry said.
Scone trainer Brett Cavanough’s The Monstar was 13th.