CONNECTIONS of the Bob Challis-trained stayer The Donchess are hoping the tough mare can add a city win to her record.
The lightly-raced eight-year-old scored the fifth win of his career, from 32 starts, in a benchmark 78 distance event at Bendigo Jockey Club on Sunday.
It capped a steady run of improvement this preparation for the daughter of three-time US Grade 1 winner Southern Image, highlighted by a pair of eye-catching runs at Sandown in her last two starts, including a third over 1800m on June 19.
The Donchess was able to capitalise on an efficient ride by apprentice Lucinda Doodt, who had the mare in front half way down the straight and was able to hold out a fast finishing favourite Meteor Light ($3), who was given every chance by his jockey Nikita Beriman in a hotly-contested race.
Despite her $11 starting price, Challis and Irwin headed to Bendigo reasonably confident on the strength of the mare's previous two efforts at Sandown.
"She tries so hard and really deserved that win. Her last two runs have been super without bringing home a big prize," Irwin said.
"She was only beaten just over a length in her last start; she drew (barrier) one and any other time you'd love to draw one, but it didn't really suit her on the day.
"In the other race she was just beaten by better horses over a different trip (1800m)."
The win lifted the mare's career prize earnings above $133,000, a solid result for her Kyneton trainer and part-owners Irwin and Ralph Portaro, who was trackside on Sunday.
Her consistent record includes 10 minor placings (five seconds, five thirds) and a string of fourth placings.
All five of her wins have been at different tracks, one apiece at Mornington, Echuca, Donald, Kilmore and now Bendigo.
The Donchess has not been without his concerns throughout his racing career, Irwin explained.
"She had 12 months off (in 2016-17), she bowed both front tendons and had a very big gap in racing while she had time off," she said.
"She's actually come back better than before with a bit of maturity."
Irwin praised an outstanding ride by Doodt, who has now ridden the mare on four occasions for a win, one third and a fourth.
"She rides extremely well for a claiming apprentice, which is why we had no hesitation in putting her on her in town," she said.
"She has a really good head on her shoulders.
"This is the only horse she's been riding for us, but The Donchess is the only one we have running at the moments."
Depending on how she comes through Sunday's race, Irwin indicated a crack at a 2400m benchmark 70 next Wednesday at Sandown would be the likely next target for a still improving The Donchess.
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