STAR young Bendigo-based driver Jack Laugher secured the first Group 1 victory of his blossoming career with a brilliant from last-to-first victory aboard Mister Hunter at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night.
The Vince Dicocco-trained colt surged to an emphatic 6.9-metre win in the $150,000 APG Vic Gold Bullion 2YO Colts and Geldings Final, providing his 23-year-old Tasmanian born-and-bred driver with his biggest thrill in racing to date.
Laugher, who is based at Julie And Glenn Douglas' stable at Strathfieldsaye, had only driven Mister Hunter once before Saturday night.
That was 10 days previously in his heat win at Ballarat.
Having his fifth race start, Mister Hunter was five-wide and about 15-metres from the leader when Laugher calmly launched his run approaching the home turn.
The colt did not take long to reel in the leaders, sweeping to the front shortly after the 200-metre mark, going on to seal a win that was as convincing as it was popular, with a big group of Mister Hunter's owners in attendance.
Laugher, who moved from Tasmania to Victoria nearly four years ago, said Group 1s were not on the radar when he made the decision to relocate.
"Definitely not. It's always something you would like to achieve, but when I moved over it definitely wasn't part of the plan," he said."I'm just lucky enough to be driving a few nicer horses now.
"I was lucky to pick up this one for Vince and all the guys that own him at Ballarat last week and he put the writing on the wall for this week.
"He was just too good, it didn't really matter who drove him tonight, but I was lucky enough to get the steer and I'm very grateful for that."
Laugher, currently fifth on the Victorian driver's premiership with 57 wins - one behind both Chris Alford and fellow Bendigo driver Ellen Tormey (58) - has continued to go from strength to strength over the past two seasons.
He drove a career-high 195 winners last season - third behind only Alford (228) and James Herbertson (200) - and with seven-and-a-half months to go, could conceivably break that mark despite a lengthy delay to the start of his season.
Equally as pleasing for Laugher as notching up his maiden Group 1 was doing it for a large group of owners, most with only small shares in the son of Huntsville out of the mare Moremi Miss.
"That makes it that much better, doing it for such a big group of owners," he said.
"They all probably haven't had a great deal of horses in their time, but there's just a bunch of them that own little bits and pieces of him and they were all here cheering him on.
"They all got a great thrill and so have I. It's great for the sport really."
It's always something you would like to achieve, but when I moved over it (a Group 1)definitely wasn't part of the plan- Jack Laugher
It was also a first Group 1 win for Mister Hunter's trainer Dicocco.
The 63-year-old from Diggers Rest has only a small team of horses and entered the night with 27-career wins to his name from 147 starts.
Of his previous three wins this season, two were by Mister Hunter, who won on debut in March at Ballarat, and the other by the four-year-old pacing gelding Francesco.
"It's quite unreal really, this has been a plan for the last year or so, and for it to come off is an amazing feeling," Dicocco said.
"(The ownership) is all family and friends, we really enjoy it. We all get together and it's really great. Fantastic.
"He (Mister Hunter) showed he was a bit special, even from the very first day that we sat behind him.
"I'm really happy with him and like him. It's just really great."
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