REBECCA Bartley and Stephen O’Donoghue continue to take all before them on the Victorian country cups circuit with San Carlo.
The Shepparton driver and trainer added their third cup win for the season when the class pacer was victorious in the $70,000 Group 2 PETstock Bendigo Pacing Cup at Lord’ Raceway on Saturday night.
In winning his, the eight-year-old gelding established a new race record.
Sent out a $1.40 favourite, San Carlo prevailed in a thriller, showing plenty of his trademark heart to outlast the Tim Butt-trained Let It Ride ($3.90) and the Bendigo-bred Stroke Of Luck, from the powerful Kerryn Manning stable.
It was a stunning triumph for trainer and driver following the horse’s 10th place finish behind Tiger Tara in last month’s Inter Dominion Pacing Championship grand final at Tabcorp Park.
An emotional O’Donoghue declared he could not believe he had won a Bendigo Cup, before revealing San Carlo had contested the Inter Dominion final with an illness.
Bartley, who has driven the horse in all 42 of his starts for 25 wins and eight placing, was equally sentimental after scoring a win in her first Bendigo Cup drive with a ‘special’ horse.
“I was hoping things would go the way they did – he relaxed really well in the run and was able to hang on,” she said.
“I’m glad the finish arrived when it did, Let It Ride was coming really quick and I wasn’t sure if I had held on.
“I was talking to Kerry Manning, who was alongside me, and I told her if (Trots Vision’s) Jason Bonnington is still chasing me than I know I’ve won, so I kept running.”
Bartley said she was stunned to learn San Carlo had set a new race record.
“That was something extra and pretty special,” she said before praising the faith the shown in her by trainer O’Donoghue.
“Steve and the owners have been so good to me.
“I have driven him his whole way through – there’s a real good connection there.”
The win comes on top of success in the $28,500 Cranbourne Cup in October and $17,100 Yarra Valley Pacing Cup in November.
It was the fourth country cup win in total for San Carlo, his first coming in the $17,100 Maryborough Gold Cup in 2017.
A shot at next Saturday’s $60,000 Group 2 Shepparton Gold Cup appears likely ahead of a tilt at the $500,000 Group 1 Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup in February.
San Carlo will be aiming to better his eighth in last years’ Hunter Cup, won by the Mark Purdon-trained and driver Lazarus.
This year’s version has attracted 31 nominations, including the top two placegetters from the Bendigo Pacing Cup, Motu Gatecrasher, who finished the race in seventh and Love Ina Chevy (last).