Many had tipped him as the best bet of the night, but driver Mitch Turnbull was just 'relieved' talented three-year-old gelding Major Bracken was able to come out on top in one of the NSW Breeders Challenge heats on Friday evening in Parkes.
Trained by Mitch's dad Steve Turnbull, Major Bracken ($1.50f) was well-backed after opening at $1.75 in the heat for three-year-old colts and geldings, but Turnbull said he had been slightly worried with how the gelding would go on Parkes' smaller track.
"It was a great relief to win, I had a few concerns over whether he would handle the track given it's his first time on a small track," he said after the race.
Turnbull needn't have had any concerns, with Major Bracken shooting straight to the front with superb gate speed from the gun draw in 1, and from there, Turnbull said it all went to plan.
"He came out of the gate well and was balanced straight away, and he just was really comfortable the whole race.
"Everything went to plan quite perfectly," Turnbull said.
A pair of Amanda Turnbull runners, Lyrical Genius ($4.20) and Mach Daddy ($16), mounted challenges on the back straight, which is when Turnbull went to work on ensuring he had his gelding primed for the victory.
"I just had to hold him up and wait for them on the last lap because I didn't want to get too far in front, because then he switches off.
"I was concerned that something would out sprint me in the last part of the straight, because around the corner he was looking for a bit of company.
"But everything was dropping off, and when Mach Daddy got just close enough then he got going again, which was good," said Turnbull.
The victory came in a swift 1:58.8 by 2.9 metres over Mach Daddy, and the win is an important step in the Hes Watchings x Majoress gelding's development, who has now clocked up eight very impressive career wins in just 17 starts.
He will certainly be one to watch ahead of the $30,000 final in Bathurst on December 1, which promises to give Western District trots fans a salivating race full of rising stars.
Eagle Commander ($19) and Western Bill ($71) helped to pad out the first four to a healthy $739.40, despite the short-priced favourite winning, in a race where finishing positions mean much more due to the nature and importance of the NSW Breeders Challenge Series.
It was a solid night in all for Turnbull, who consolidated third spot on the Parkes Mensland Leading Driver standings.
Two minor placings aboard Digger Shed ($13) and Baby Bee Mine ($2.60f) take him to 78 points, behind the second-placed Amanda Turnbull on 83, who could only manage a trio of minor placings - an off night by her lofty standards.
Brother Nathan Turnbull sits clear on 119 points after winning on Key Defender ($4.60) and Tackas Princess ($5).
In the Cunninghams IGA Leading Trainer standings, dad Steve (113 points) holds a slender lead over Nathan (109 points), with Amanda (102 points) rounding out the top three.
Harness racing will return to Parkes this Friday evening, after the meeting originally scheduled for Dubbo was transferred to the club due to the evolving COVID-19 situation in Dubbo.
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