Goulburn trainer-driver Brad Hewitt hailed the toughness of his ‘little tiger’, Our Triple Play, after the pair narrowly won a balancing act to out take the Inter City Pace Final (2422m) in one of the most exciting finishes in the race’s 55-year history.
Our Triple Play, the $2.30 favourite, smashed his track record, set a week earlier in the heats, to beat Bernie Hewitt’s Royal Story ($4) and the Mark Jones-trained Delightful Memphis ($3.40) in a photo-finish on Saturday night at Maitland.
After an anxious wait, the four-year-old gelding was given the win by a short half-head over Royal Story, which had led the group 3 race for all but the final stride. The Ashlee Grives-driven Delightful Memphis was a neck away.
Our Triple Play’s mile rate of 1.59.2 was 0.6 seconds quicker than his heat and came after an intriguing pace battle. Royal Story, last season’s NSW Breeders Challenge 3YO fillies champion, held the lead from gate one but Hewitt worked Our Triple Play three wide for most of the first lap to get the sit outside his uncle’s mare, creating a blistering first-half rate of 59.5 seconds.
They upped the ante with a 28-second third quarter, which set up the expected three-way finish with second-row starter Delightful Memphis challenging late. Despite his early work and the hot pace, Our Triple Play was strongest on the line.
Brad Hewitt was a close second with I'm Jay Tee behind when Luke McCarthy’s All Eyes On Us won the 2015 Inter City Pace and thought he would fall short again as they hit the home turn.
“He’s just a real tough little fella,” Hewitt said. “I had to go hard enough to bring Bern’s mare unstuck and not too hard so to let Ashlee’s mare come into the race.
“If I went too hard she would have beaten the pair of us. I couldn’t have got it much better.
“I didn’t want to go too hard but the last lap, we were flying around here.
“It’s hard when you’re serving it up to your uncle, you’ve got to back your judgement. You go too hard and get beat, you look like an idiot.
“We race each other every week and it’s always competitive, but it’s good to do it on a big night, on good horses and in a good race like that.”
He believed the late charge from Delightful Memphis brought out the best in his horse, which is part-owned by Canberra Raiders Jarrod Croker and Sam Williams.
“I knew my fella was going to kick again when they straightened up, but he wouldn’t have won if he didn’t race Ash’s horse when she come up. It kicked when she come,” he said. “He’s a little tiger. He just races like that all the time.”
Bernie Hewitt thought he had the win “until the finish”.
“He’s a tough little horse and I knew he’d be hard to beat, so it proved that way. We nearly got him but he was too good,” Bernie said. “We had no excuse but the only thing is we went in with only a couple of trials under our belt and just the one race run, but I think she will benefit from the run and the trip.”
Brad was thrilled to come out on top in the exciting finale.
“It’s a dream, having finishes like that on nights like this and in a race like that, it’s fantastic,” he said. “I could hear the crowd coming down the straight, just all yelling and screaming, and going mad. That’s what you want.”
“Coming to these little tracks on big nights like this. I just love it.
“I only got beat a metre in , so it’s good to go one better, especially when you come all this way. It definitely makes it worthwhile when you get a result like that.”
Hewitt’s wasn’t sure exactly how small Our Triple Play was but said his agility helped in the three-lap event.
“You won’t find a smaller horse and it helps around these small tracks, he just scoots around,” he said.
He said the Canberra Cup was a possible next target for Our Triple Play.