Nash Rawiller rarely shows emotion, let alone sentiment, but the jockey is the first to admit he has a soft spot for the John Thompson-trained Sweet Deal.
The mare gave Rawiller his first Saturday victory in Sydney following his return from a 15-month hiatus imposed by Hong Kong stewards, who outed him for allegedly accepting gifts in exchange for tips.
That city win on Sweet Deal in August 2019 was an important milestone for the gifted rider and the mare delivered him another one with her victory in the $1 million The Hunter (1300m) at Newcastle on Saturday.
Rawiller, who has successfully rebuilt his career in Sydney, said the feature race success was all the more special because it came aboard Sweet Deal.
“She was my first Saturday city winner back after Hong Kong, obviously after 15 months on the sidelines, and she’s just kept raising the bar as we’ve gone along,” Rawiller said.
“It’s great to see her bounce back.
“She’s had a Group Three win before and to come back and win a $1 million race, it’s not just exciting but it’s a great thrill to do it on her.”
Sweet Deal was initially slated to contest the Hot Danish Stakes last weekend but was scratched due to the heavy track and Thompson changed course to the Newcastle showpiece.
He said it was satisfying to see the mare back in the winner’s circle after a campaign hindered by bad barriers and unsuitable tracks.
“She’s had wide gates and wet tracks so it has been frustrating,” Thompson said.
“She got away with a win first-up and got away with another today.
“It was an outstanding ride, Nash went around one horse. I could see she was travelling and he saved lengths going up on the inside of them.”
Thompson was also relieved Sweet Deal’s owners decided against sending her to stud last year.
She will now be spelled and return for a final autumn preparation and a shot at a coveted Group One.
Sweet Deal enjoyed a beautiful run behind the speed and pounced on leader Special Reward, who kicked strongly and was brave in defeat.
“He gave me a really good kick and honestly, there wouldn’t be too many horses that would get past him when he does that,” Special Reward’s jockey Aaron Bullock said.
Tommy Berry said Sydney Stakes winner Trumbull felt the firm track and didn’t let down, while Jason Collett reported favourite Ranier didn’t appreciate being ridden closer to the speed.
Sweet Deal ($10) scored by a length over Special Reward ($13) with Asiago ($9.50) the same margin away third.