Two famous racing families had reasons to celebrate Witchachar Star's victory in Thursday's Sungold Milk Warrnambool Cup.
Winning trainer Chris Hyland extended his family's rich history with the south-west and the TAB May Racing Carnival. His dad Pat, a two-time winning Warrnambool Cup jockey, grew up in Port Fairy before embarking on a legendary career in the saddle, which included a Melbourne Cup win on What A Nuisance. Chris' brother Sam also won two Warrnambool Cups in 1998 and 2008.
Jockey Beau Mertens scored his first carnival winner in the feature flat race, etching his name alongside his father Peter, who won the same race in 2005 on True Courser and 2011 on Tinamou.
The 24-year-old was delighted to secure the win ahead of Nerve Not Verve and Constantinople in the 2350-metre flat race.
"He'd be very proud," Beau said of his dad.
"(Peter) actually told a few weeks ago, before he started his winning streak, that he'd be a good Warrnambool Cup horse, which made me inclined to do the 54 (kilos) and come down here.
"He was my only ride, it's my first Warrnambool carnival winner, so what a thrill.
"I think that will make him proud."
The victory was Witchachar Star's fifth win in seven starts. He placed third in the other two, marking a stunning run of form after a 37-week spell and change of trainer to Cranbourne-based Chris Hyland.
"It's crazy isn't it? It just goes to show how well Chris can get these tried horses going and especially these stayers," Mertens said.
"I had a lot of confidence in him that he'd keep the horse right from Saturday to now and what a terrific job he's done."
Hyland said Witchachar Star had continued improving.
"We aimed very low just to get his confidence up. He's exceeded our expectations obviously," he said.
"His first win at Sandown he smoked up too early like that too. He was just travelling so much better than everything and then that horse (Nerve Not Verve) came at him in the straight and I was a bit worried but when you watch the replay it'll show he probably had them covered and I was worried about nothing."
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Hyland said he gave Mertens minimal instructions and trusted the jockey's instincts.
"I've just left to Beau every time, I said you just ride him to suit the race and that's what he's done. He's done a fantastic job," he said.
"He's an underrated rider, we use him a lot down Cranbourne and he's just a gun. He does what he's told but most of the time I leave it to him and he gets sorted. We have a bit of luck with Beau."
Witchachar Star paid $9.50 for the victory, delivering good value for punters.
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