Franco finishes season on high

JAMIE SEARLE
Last updated 05:00 24/02/2014
Wyndham Cup
STUART MALCOLM

PHOTO FINISH: Franco Ledger (left, Hamish Hunter) finishes best to win from Arden Rooney (right) and Pemberton Shard in Saturday’s $20,000 Wyndham Cup.

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Franco Ledger closed his 6-year-old season on a successful note in the Wyndham Cup on Saturday.

Ryal Bush trainer-driver Hamish Hunter wasn't sure if he had won in a three-horse finish. Franco Ledger came from off the pace to prevail by a head from early leader Arden Rooney, with the same margin to Pemberton Shard third. The time of 3:57 (3200m stand) was 0.6 outside the national entires and geldings' record, set by Changeover in the 2008 New Zealand Cup.

''We were flat for the first mile, but he felt good from the 1000m,'' Hunter said of Franco Ledger, who won the Wyndham Cup in 2012.

Three weeks ago Hunter and the What Ever Syndicate thought the Wyndham Cup could be the entire's final outing for the season. After the race, all parties agreed to turn him out.

''He's had a big season and hasn't had a decent break for a long time,'' Hunter said.

Saturday's Kindergarten Stakes winner, Itz Bettor To Win, gave Mark Purdon his sixth training success in the Group III classic.

Purdon, who formed a training partnership with Natalie Rasmussen in August, has also prepared Kindergarten winners Messini (last year), Sir Clive (2008), Ohoka Arizona (2007), Lennon (first equal, 2003) and So Cool (2002).

Driver Blair Orange notched his third Kindergarten Stakes success behind Itz Bettor To Win, while the reinsman's other winners in the event have been Ohoka Arizona and Lennon.

Securing the trail early with Itz Bettor To Win was a big advantage on Saturday, Orange said.

''I chirped him up before the passing lane and he jumped on the bridle [quickened].''

Melbourne owners Merv and Meg Butterworth were at Wyndham to watch their horses win - Itz Bettor To Win and stablemate King Denny (McDonald Excavating Trot).

The couple's good luck continued at the Terang Cup meeting in Victoria on Saturday night when they picked up two wins and a third from three starters.

The third was with ex-Southland pacer Our Blackbird in the Cup.

Last year's Kindergarten Stakes winner, Messini, won Saturday's MLT/Three Rivers Hotel Pace at Wyndham for the Purdon-Rasmussen training partnership and Melbourne owner Bill Feiss.

Messini bucked when tapped with the whip 230m out. He quickly settled and went on to win by one and a-half lengths.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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