Enigmatic mare Air To Air stunned racegoers at Newcastle Racecourse on Saturday when she overcame a horror start to win the final event, the Saddingtons Building Supplies Benchmark 64 Handicap (1300m). Air To Air was an acceptor at both Randwick and Newcastle on Saturday, and trainer Sam Kavanagh after walking the Newcastle track on Saturday morning opted to run at his home circuit. The in-form Jean Van Overmeire picked up the ride, and the mare was backed off the map to start a $2.50 favourite.
Air To Air has never been popular with punters with her terrible barrier manners, which has resulted in one previous win from twenty-four starts. The six-year-old was recently purchased by John Singleton and on Saturday was racing for “Singo” and new trainer Sam Kavanagh for the second time. There was drama when the barriers opened as Air To Air stood in her barrier and missed the start by more than six lengths. She tacked on to the field, fifteen lengths from the lead 900m from home. Van Overmeire had not moved on the winner at the top of the straight. When called on, Air To Air unleashed and sprinted away to win by more than two lengths. Kavanagh was elated.
“I am proud of my team as a lot of work has gone into this mare since she came to our stable. When she was for sale, I was going to form a syndicate, but Singo said he would buy her. He watched the race with friends and was very excited when I called him after the win. I would like to have a crack at the Group 3 Tibbie Stakes on Newcastle Cup Day, but Air To Air will need to get her benchmark up” Kavanagh said.
Godolphin’s apprentice Zac Lloyd started the meeting on a high note, riding the first two winners. Lloyd steered the imported Irish stayer Monreal to a four-length win in the Mavid Mares Hunter Stayers Cup (2900m). It was the winners first success in Australia, and it was 1493 days since the nine-year-old who is trained by Matthew Smith’s last win.
Despite an alarming betting drift from $6 to $15, Martini Crusader dashed away in the straight to win the Terrace Trusses Jockey Celebration Day Maiden Plate (1400m) with Lloyd aboard.
Jean Van Overmeire rode three winners and Rory Hutchings, along with Lloyd two on the eight-race program.