Young Serpentine trainer Stephanie Smith boosted her reputation as a first-up specialist when she produced Dundee Three in superb condition at Gloucester Park on Friday night for a fighting victory in the 2503m Big Sports Breakfast TV Channel 519 Handicap.
Driven by her partner Morgan Woodley, Dundee Three, an 8/1 chance, galloped out from the 20m mark and was last with two laps to travel with noted frontrunner Hez Got The Nod bowling along in the lead.
Woodley started a three-wide move with 1150m to travel and the New Zealand-bred seven-year-old sustained a spirited effort to get to the front 30m from the post and win by a metre from Hez Got The Nod after final quarters in 28.4sec. and 28.7sec.
The $11,220 first prize was a wonderful reward for Smith, who has worked assiduously to get the injury-plagued Dundee Three fit enough to make a comeback. She was given Dundee Three as a gift from leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond after she, her father Stewart, Lee Bunney and Ian Sermon had outlaid $10,000 to claim Gate Bender (trained by the Bonds) last June.
“Greg and Skye asked me if I wanted a chance to rehabilitate Dundee Three (who had a damaged off fore suspensory ligament) and they said I could have him for nothing,” Smith said.
“So I thought I would have a go and now I want to say thanks to Greg and Skye.”
Smith, in her second season as a trainer, is a qualified veterinary nurse and she has managed to get Dundee Three sound enough to resume racing. The Mach Three gelding was having his first start for 11 months on Friday night and if he retains his fitness looks sure to win more races.
Smith gave Dundee Three six months off in the paddock and then she had to work hard to cure several other problems, apart from his suspensory damage.
“He has got bad feet problems, contracted heels, front and back,” she said. “He also has funny knees and jars up after almost every run.”
Dundee Three now races in egg bar shoes on top of silicon filling and Smith treats his knees almost daily. She also takes the small gelding to the beach at Kwinana about every second day and rush wades him (riding him as he trots in the water). He also wades and rolls in the sand.
Woodley was thrilled at Dundee Three’s performance, saying: “All credit to Steph; she has done a fantastic job. I’m so proud of her and so proud of the horse as well. He is a tremendous competitor. He is just a little horse, but is so brave. He showed courage tonight, winning after a quick last half and out three wide.
“He just clawed his way right to the post and never gave it away. I thought it was probably curtains down the back straight when I didn’t quite get past Copagrin (in the breeze) like I had anticipated. And I then thought that the leader was probably going to hold on and I thought if we could hang on for a place I would be delighted with his performance.
“Steph does all the on per cent things that I think make a big difference. She down there (at the stables) from early morning until late at night, doing things like icing their feet, wrapping their legs and taking them out for a pick in the grass, just keeping them in a happy place. She deserves all the accolades she gets.”
Dundee Three, a half-brother to Scruncher (69 starts for 20 wins, 18 placings and $137,002), has earned $205,378 from 20 wins and 22 placings from 75 starts.
Smith also showed great skill in preparing Gate Bender and Big Town Drive for first-up victories and she has also been successful with Sovereign Grange and Bolshevic in the past 12 months. Gate Bender won at his first start for Smith when he beat Shardons Rocket in a stand at Gloucester Park in December.
Big Town Drive then won first-up for Smith at Williams in February before winning again at his next three starts, at Pinjarra, Narrogin and Harvey.
By Ken Casellas