FOUR trainers with Warrnambool connections scored victories on day one of the TAB May Racing Carnival.
Winslow-raised Ciaron Maher, with three, was the pick while Aaron Purcell, Lindsey Smith and Symon Wilde also had winners.
Three jockeys scored doubles - Steve Pateman, Darryl Horner and multiple Melbourne Cup winner Damien Oliver.
Surprised Warrnambool trainer Aaron Purcell said he gave roughie Patch Adams a chance of a forward finish in a 1700-metre handicap.
"He's going great but I didn't know if he was good enough. It's been a long time since he's won a race of this class," he said.
"His work was good but I thought he would run a competitive fourth or fifth but the jockey did a great job and in the end he was too good."
Jockey Will Price pinged out of the barriers with Patch Adams and then took up a position just off the speed.
He came down the middle of the track after claiming the lead on the home turn and defied efforts to run him down.
Patch Adams started at $81 and won by three-quarters of a length from Mornington galloper Strategic Phil ($8.60) with Mick Price's Fifth Position ($3.10, Damian Lane) a short-head away third.
Warrnambool trainer Symon Wilde's rounded out day one on a winning note.
Dinga, which was a $15.50 chance, defeated Moor Wanted ($1.80) and Yulong Knight ($11.30).
A perfect front-running ride by the talented Damien Thornton, bouncing to the front and controlling the race tempo, allowed Dinga to hang on by a long-neck from the Peter Chow-trained Moor Wanted with Rob Blacker's $51 chance Yulong Knight third.
Wilde was pleased to eventually break through for a win after a day of close misses.
"The horses have been running well but it is just nice to get on the board, I guess," he said.
"It's nice to do it for (owner, former Warrnambool Racing Club committee member) Bill Whitehead who is a longtime supporter of ours.
"The horse ran very well last time and it was good to see him break through.
"Damien was just going to play it by ear - if he flies the gates then go for it. If not, tuck in. He really had his own plan and he executed it beautifully."
Earlier in the day Wilde was close with Field Of Lights and Jimmy's Secret.
"In the maiden hurdles, one ran second and one ran third. We thought the last two races today were our best chances. We thought it might have been a light day," he said.
"We have some nice ones tomorrow - Glassy Miss is a very good chance."
Thornton said he was prepared to see how the race panned out.
"Symon asked before the race what I was going to do. I said I'll work it out when the gates open," he said.
"They've been winning all day on the rail so I made good use of his gate speed and he just kept going.
"He quickened really well off the bend. He towed me into the straight so I didn't want to let him go too early. I had a break and felt like I'd let them get to me and then go again. He was too tough. Probably out on his feet late but too tough."
Warrnambool trainer Lindsey Smith praised jockey Damien Oliver's tactical nous in race nine.
Favourite La Vina got Smith his first win of the carnival, proving too good in the BM handicap (1200m).
The four-year-old mare settled midfield under the guidance of Oliver and, despite looking under pressure, finished off well to win.
The $2.80-favourite saluted by 2.25 lengths from Symon Wilde's Realeza ($6, Joe Bowditch), with Paddy Payne's Villa Villekulla ($4.60, Tayla Childs) three-quarters of a length away third.
Smith said La Vina was placed in a listed race in Perth but she wasn't up to elite class.
"I thought she was an ideal horse to come over here," he said.
"She had a tough run and was too good on the line. She was aimed here with the wet track in mind.
"We won with her at Ballarat and backed off with the carnival in mind.
"She's not good enough for the spring features but there will be other races for her through the winter."
Smith said he was delighted to break through and hinted he was hopeful of more success in coming days.
"She had a bit of a tough run. I was a bit worried but once she go balanced up she looked good," he said.
"She looked the winner at the top of the straight. Oli is a good tactician and he got the break on that horse and he found the line well.
"When she won at Ballarat, Ethan Brown was quite bullish about this horse so we gave her a few weeks off.
"She handles the wet so we've got this winter to go through and she can have a rest through springtime.
Oliver said La Vina was simply better than opposition.
"It wasn't pretty but she was too good for them. She's a nice mare and handled the ground well," he said.
"A big strong mare and I think she's in for a good preparation.
"Early I was hoping to be handy but a few kicked up underneath me. They came back and I caught up so I was a bit wide. I waited with a bit of cover and nursed her a bit but when I asked her she responded really well."
HAVING A BLAST
JASON Schloten's decision to take the plunge into his first horse is paying dividends.
The Ballarat-based owner watched the Matt Cumani-trained Sign Seal Deliver score his third career triumph in race seven, a benchmark 78 handicap, at Warrnambool.
Sign Seal Deliver won by 1.75 lengths from Ballarat galloper Budd Fox ($15.90) with Aaron Purcell's Sir Marengo ($8.40) almost another length away third.
Schloten said a chance meeting with Andrew Bobbin and Cumani, former training partners, was enough to get into the horse.
"It was actually the first horse we've ever got into," he said.
"He's been frustrating at times but this is his third win now.
"His last run was really poor (fourth at Bendigo) and we weren't sure how he'd go but Dean (Yendall) rode him really well."
Schloten said it was a major thrill to salute at Warrnambool's May Carnival.
Cumani, who is English-born, said Yendall's "perfect ride" set the tone for the victory.
"Absolutely fantastic (to win here). He's a horse that's been here and there. He's a bit one-dimensional but Dean got it perfect," Cumani said.
CHAMPION jockey Damien Oliver jokes he's learned from his "past indiscretions" and will focus strictly on steering horses to victory in 2021.
Oliver, who failed a pre-race breathalyser test and was forced off course at Warrnambool's May Carnival in 2016, quipped he'd avoid the temptation of being swept up in the festivities of the three-day event.
And the 48-year-old is off to a flier.
Oliver, aboard Flemington-trained galloper New York Baby, stopped a runaway Ciaron Maher train and upset hot favourite Cardigan Queen in the $100,000 VOBIS Gold Strike over 1000 metres in race five.
Oliver promised to behave in his 2021 stint in the south-west.
"Very quiet. I'm riding light this week and I might say that I've learnt from my past indiscretions," he laughed.
Oliver said New York Baby, who was racing in her first start, was a bright prospect.
"The first time I rode her in a trial I said there was no reason not to run her if she comes through the trial well and she looked like she'd come on from the trial, too," he said.
"It was a good effort and I think she's a nice filly and there's more races in-store for her, I think."
Co-trainer Leon Corstens said he was "a bit surprised" in the two-year-old's race.
"Credit goes to Oli because he was really keen to run her. I think if she'd put on another 40 or 50 kilos and I do think she's a really good filly," he said.
"Even this morning when the track came up a heavy nine - we don't usually run first starters on heavy nines - but with the Super VOBIS money you just have to take advantage of it nowadays."
The first winner of the carnival was the Andrew Noblet-trained Out and Dreaming in a 3200m hurdle.
Jockey Darryl Horner had the ride.
The experienced Cranbourne-based Horner was allowed to dictate terms for much of the race, kicked clear on the $9.10 chance after clearing the last and held on to win by a short-neck from Sir Edward Landseer ($25), with another short-neck back to $2.70 favourite Field Of Lights.
Noblet said it was his first winner at the TAB May Racing Carnival.
"I didn't think it'd be a jumper but I'll take anything down here. It's a great thrill," he said.
"I've only been down here a couple of times and it's very hard to win down here. I'm not taking it for granted, that's for sure."
It was also Horner's first carnival winner.
"I got off him at Pakenham and I said that you can tie a train to his tail and they (still) won't beat him at Warrnambool.
"The plan wasn't to lead but they were going so slow. He's a big-striding horse and you don't want him cluttered up.
"Got away with absolute murder in front. He got lost up the straight, it's a long way from the last jump but he was fit, he was well and I had a horse under me that could do it. A good training effort.
"Also a big thanks for my brother. He got me on the horse.
"I could hear them coming but he lasted. This is my fourth May Carnival now and my first winner so it's not easy to ride winners here."
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