CHAMPION: Looker flies to victory in $500,000 final
RACING: Former Grafton jockey Ben Looker has capped off a mammoth season in the saddle with the greatest win of his career at the weekend.
Looker stormed under the field on board Victorem (Jenny Graham) in the dying stages to clinch victory in the $500,000 Country Championships Final at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
The first horse to book a place in the final charged late along the rails to win by two lengths from race-favourite Don't Give A Damn (Kerrin McEvoy) with O' So Hazy (Brooke Sweeney) a long head back in third.
It was a win for the ages for the jockey, who has ridden the horse in all of his six race starts, which included five wins.
"This is my Melbourne Cup, obviously being in the bush you don't find many progressive horses, let alone any as good as Victorem,” Looker told Fairfax media.
"I was so confident that he was the best horse in the race and I knew if I got it right he would win like that.”
Looker had set up a run down the middle of the straight coming off the home turn, but after being shut out he resorted for Plan B and headed for the rails.
"I was trying to force a run that shut on me, I was just lucky that when the gap opened up the inside I just had that explosive turn of foot,” he said.
For Graham, it was a major relief after she was forced to withdraw fellow qualifiers Awesome Pluck and Portatorio from the final due to injury.
Graham had trained the quinella in the first Counytry Championships qualifier at Port Macquarie, but her win in the final eclipsed the earlier meeting.
"I thought Port was pretty good but this is the best day of my life,” Graham said after the race. "It seems such a long time ago he qualified (on February 18) and then the other two got hurt and I was devastated.
"I was devastated for the other owners because this is the dream. You have been preparing for this day for so long and for them not to be here was bad.
"I still came here only hoping because I knew we had a good horse but I wasn't as confident as Benny Looker. He kept telling me it would just win.”
And win he did. The enigmatic gelding will now face some time in the paddock before coming back in the Winter with a potential run in the Ramornie Handicap ahead.
"I think eventually he might run a mile, he's still learning what he is doing, he just needs to relax a bit and when he does the sky is his limit,” Looker said.
Northern Rivers qualifiers Snitz and Ferniehirst also impressed in the stacked final finishing fifth and sixth respectively.