Close call: smart colt does best to lose — again
MANDELA, the talented but erratic three-year-old colt, very nearly cost himself another race on Saturday.
Tim Clark had his hands full - and favourite backers had their hearts in their mouths - before Mandela scrambled home a narrow winner in the Owners Awards Handicap (1200m) at Royal Randwick.
But the talented Mandela remains his own worst enemy, appearing set to score easily before ducking in at a vital stage and getting involved in a scrimmage.
Mandela threw away certain victory on debut when he did a Benji Marshall-like sidestep near the line, then at his next start he was held up behind runners and was noticeably swishing his tail under pressure as he missed a place.
Brave punters sent Mandela out as the $3.10 favourite again and this time he was able to break through, albeit by a half-head.
The interference near the line resulted in a protest from the rider of third over the line Art Collection ($4.80) against Edison ($4), which Racing NSW stewards upheld.
First starter Astralis ($6.50) was making her run inside Mandela and going to be in the finish when badly checked and lucky to stay on her feet before finishing fourth.
"Mandela is only firing on about four or five cylinders,'' co-trainer Paul Snowden said.
"He is a really nice horse going forward if we can get him to apply himself. But the biggest thing today is that Tim (Clark) knows this colt well and full credit to him for the win.
"Time will tell with this colt, we are looking at better races with him but he will need to lift.''
Clark said Mandela was not an easy horse to ride and conceded the three-year-old wasn't concentrating fully on his task.
This was evident from the start when Mandela was slow out of the gates, leaving Clark with no alternative but to ride the colt conservatively.
"Even though he was slow away it didn't worry me,'' Clark said. "I thought, 'right, I'm going to leave you alone now and get the last shot at them'.
"He tracked up like he was going to win more comfortably but there was that interference and it did cost him some momentum.
"Then closer to the line he was having a bit of a think about it. He could have been beaten but he did stick his head out on the line.
"There is no doubt he has more talent than he is showing at the moment but he has got the win on the board so hopefully he can go on with it from here.''
Just 35 minutes after Mandela won the opener, stablemate Misteed scraped home by a short head in the NSW Trainers Association Handicap (1200m).
Then shortly after Misteed's win, the Snowdens were celebrating again when Atomic Sunrise won her maiden at Kembla Grange.
Paul Snowden said the thrilling wins of Mandela and Misteed hopefully were a sign the stable's fortunes were changing after they lost many close finishes last season.
Snowden praised champion jockey Kerrin McEvoy's decision to save ground and guide Misteed through the field from the turn.
"It was a top effort by Kerrin, he's cut the corner, the runs started to appear inside other horses and that's what has won us the race,'' Snowden said.
"Misteed is a very tough filly, she's always had that trait about her, and she dug deep when the favourite came at her.''
The judge was required again to confirm the result as Misteed ($9) just held off the late surge of hot favourite True Detective ($1.60) to win by a short head with Lifetime Quest ($8) a short half head away third.
McEvoy said Misteed showed bravery to take a narrow gap at the top of the straight where she sprinted to the lead.
"I was worried I might have pressed the button a little early but she was able to hold on,'' McEvoy said. "As we crossed the line, I was unsure if we had held on so it's nice to get the win early to start the season."
True Detective was behind the eight ball from the start. He was slow out of the barriers and settled back at the rear of the nine-horse field.
Jockey Tommy Berry rode True Detective patiently until the turn where he was able to get the favourite to the outside to make his run.
True Detective sprinted quickly and looked the likely winner but he ducked in when struck with the whip, forcing Berry to stead his mount.
Berry was able to swap the whip into his right hand in a couple of strides and True Detective rallied late and in one more stride he would have was overhauled the winner.
"True Detective just leapt up in the air at the start,'' Berry said.
"He is still doing those little things wrong but the positive out of today was that he relaxed really well and hit the line like he is looking for further like we always thought he would.
"He is heading in the right direction.''