BENDIGO trainer Kym Hann paid tribute to track worker, stablehand and friend Donna Philpot after leading in Echuca winner All About Nicci on Monday.
Philpot regularly rode trackwork for the young Bendigo trainer and had ridden the four-year-old mare in most of her gallops in the weeks before her death at Bendigo racecourse on June 27.
"Donna rode that horse a fair bit, she probably did her last five or six week's work on that horse before she raced," Hann said. "It's left everyone very sad.
"Our families knew each other well, so it's been tough."
Hann said Philpot's tragic passing had been felt by everyone associated with racing in Bendigo and further abroad.
A service to celebrate her life was held at the Bendigo Racecourse last Sunday afternoon.
Adding to the bittersweet felling of victory, it was All About Nicci's first race start in 36 weeks after a long spell.
"There was nothing amiss, we have just been waiting for wet tracks with her," Hann said.
"She can't run on a hard track, so we've been waiting for the winter and to get a few tracks with a bit of give in them.
"She was very impressive. She came from a long way back, got caught wide all the way but was just too strong for them."
It was the mare's third race win in 12 starts, all of them over 1100m.
She previously won as a four-year-old in Wodonga and broke her maiden status at Bendigo in May 2016.
All About Nicci was ridden by former Queensland jockey Jordan Grob, who was having his first ride for Hann.
The trainer said he would wait and see before pinpointing a next race for the mare.
"There's a race Saturday-week in Wodonga - we'll aim towards there," he said.
"She won up there last year, but if we don't make it, we'll wait another week.
"The aim is to get her though her grades - she' s up in rating now, if she gets one more win we might try and find something in town for her on a wet track.
"Without getting too excited, she has a fair bit of ability. But it was only a 58 (benchmark) on Monday, so we won't get too far ahead of ourselves."
Meanwhile, the galloper which earlier this year presented Hann with his first city winner, Glenrowan Prince has resumed work.
Hann said he would take a cautious approach with the five-year-old gelding's preparation after having bone chips removed from his leg following his big win at Caulfield.
"We'll give him plenty of time and when he's right he's right," he said.
"There's no exact target, but we might head back to town and try our luck in a few handy races.
"He's been a pretty good horse for us."