MALDON trainer Ashley McKnight could barely contain his delight after stable favourite Hot Seat staged a dramatic form reversal to win on the Ballarat Synthetic on Tuesday.
The much-loved seven-year-old gelding racked up career win number seven at start 51, with in-form 1.5kg claiming apprentice Alana Kelly in the saddle.
Hot Seat, the son of 2010 Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes winner Star Witness and Hot Riff, was well down in the betting at $31 following a trio of unplaced runs this preparation at Geelong, Echuca and Ballarat Synthetic.
Despite jumping well, the gelding gave connections a few anxious moments mid-race. But under the guidance of Kelly, he was able to refocus and hit the lead at the 200m before going on to score by a narrow margin over the fast-finishing Queen Of Rocks.
McKnight, who co-trains the horse with his father Brian, said most of the praise belonged to Kelly, who is enjoying a career best season with 43 wins, including three from her last 20 rides.
"He's a funny old horse and he's probably getting a bit quirky in his old age, just mentally," he told broadcaster Racing.com.
"I decided to put a shadow roll on him, I didn't know whether it would work, but if it's good enough for Peter Moody it's good enough for me.
"But all credit has to go to Alana, she's flying - absolutely flying.
"You don't lose anything putting Alana on a horse, she rode him just sensational.
"She's ridden him a lot and ridden his trackwork and things like that, so she knows him well and got the best out of him today (Tuesday)."
Kelly has been in the saddle for three of Hot Seat's seven wins from 14 attempts.
Tuesday's win was his first beyond 1200m, with McKnight left in no doubt that the step-up in distance had been a massive factor.
"We wanted to try him out over further and I might even get him to a mile this time," he said
"He's getting a bit older and he's set a little bit more.
"I think the thing with him is (to) keep mixing things up a bit.
"To his credit, he really toughed out in the end.
"He's a good old horse, he's sound and he has been great to us. It's great for the stable and Alana and everyone."
Business is about to pick up for the McKnights.
The team has seven horses in work, with six more to return next week.
McKnight nominated the former Darren Weir-trained middle-distance performer Savoie, who is on the comeback trail and finished a close-up fifth over 1500m on the synthetic on Tuesday, as a horse to keep an eye on from the stable.
The now five-year-old was a Flemington winner for Weir in 2018 and was a starter in that year's Group 1 Victorian Derby (2500m).
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