Roughly, a 10-year-old mare, continued her endless run of good form with victory over four-year-old gelding Flying Start in the feature race at Pioneer Park on Saturday.
Flying Start starred as a three-year-old for trainer Greg Connor during the 2022 Alice Springs Cup Carnival, which included winning in the NT Guineas (1600m) by eight lengths.
A decent field of sprinters lined up for the CAAMA Radio Handicap (1100m) on the weekend, although the field was reduced to seven when Will Savage’s Cut It Out (Emma Lines) was scratched at the barrier after refusing to load.
The Paul Gardner-trained Roughly (Sonja Wiseman) jumped well from barrier six and assumed control out in the front along the fence with Lisa Whittle’s Cyclonite (Lek Maloney), who drew gate seven, sitting on her outside.
Valley Prince (Dakota-Lee Gillett), from Terry Gillett’s stable, and Our Luca (Phillip Crich), from Kerry Petrick’s yard, were battling it out for third followed by Whittle’s Mathematics (Paul Denton) and Flying Start.
To see Flying Start (Jessie Philpot) sitting in sixth place was no surprise as he has an excellent turn of foot, which was evident during the 2022 Alice Springs and Darwin Cup carnivals.
With 600m to go it was still Roughly from Cyclonite with Our Luca getting the jump on Valley Prince, while Mathematics and Flying Start were starting to wind up – Dick Leech’s Write Your Name (Jarrod Todd) was only battling.
Flying Start had clicked into clear and approaching the home turn he had already circled Valley Prince, Our Luca and Mathematics, and with 350m to go at the top of the home straight he had caught the leaders.
Cyclonite (52kg), with a 3kg claim, refused to yield with Roughly (61.5kg) on its inside and Flying Start (56.5kg) on its outside, and although Flying Start was finishing with a wet sail, Roughly kicked at the 200m to win by a length with Cyclonite a further half-length away in third place.
It’s not the first time since Roughly’s remarkable run of form started back in July that the daughter of Kaphero has found that extra something to thwart his challengers when leading.
To also spot Flying Start 4.5kg added further merit to the win.
After an excellent Darwin Cup Carnival campaign which ended on August 1, Flying Start returned to action on December 18 and finished fourth in open company over 1200m behind Supreme Times – a race where Roughly came second.
Victory on Saturday was Roughly’s 17th from 61 starts, which also includes 18 minor placings, after winning a 1000m maiden on debut at Bendigo for trainers Leon and Troy Corstens in March 2016.
Roughly then raced for Michael Hickmott in Darwin and South Australia before returning to the Top End under the guidance of Gardner.
For various reasons, Gardner cut ties with the mare he also owns in July 2019 where she continued to race in Darwin and Alice Springs for fellow NT trainers Phil Cole, Carly Cook and Leah Walling-Denton.
Despite winning for Darwin trainer Cole on Katherine Cup Day in August 2019, Roughly had six starts at Fannie Bay before making a permanent move back to Alice Springs where she has had 23 starts since April 2020.
Roughly has had leg injuries throughout her career and she was seemingly bound for retirement after winning over 1200m (BM76) for Red Centre trainer Cook in September 2020.
Gardner even admitted that he didn’t race Roughly, a handy commodity at the start of her career, as often as he would have liked in the early days because of her leg issues.
However, three wins from six starts when transferred to the Cook stable was not lost on Gardner and by allowing the mare to spell for two years and shake off her complications she has amazingly made a successful comeback as a nine-year-old.
Returning in May last year, Roughly failed to fire a shot in three starts for Cole in the Red Centre before winning two straight in open company over 1200m.
Cole then headed to Queensland with a team in August with Alice Springs trainer Walling-Denton taking over and enjoying two wins, a second, two thirds and a fourth at the top level from 1100m-1600m over a three month period.
At that point in her career, Roughly had never won beyond 1200m and had never raced beyond 1300m before winning over 1400m and 1600m for the first time.
Gardner made a successful return to training in early November when Roughly saluted for the second time in her life over 1600m (BM76).
After that win and before Saturday’s success, the ageless mare had raced on four other occasions from 1200m-1400m for a win, two seconds and a third.
It’s a truly remarkable story as Roughly has also had 17 starts since returning last May having raced at least once every month during that period.
For Wiseman it was her fifth win aboard Roughly on Saturday, while fellow Darwin-based jockeys Casey Hunter (four) and Vanessa Arnott (one) have celebrated victory on the mare since she returned to race in Central Australia in April 2020.