Kembla Grange hosted The Gong on Saturday and it was a hometown victory as Count De Rupee scored for local trainers Robert & Luke Price in the $1 million feature.
The four-year-old opened as favourite for the 1600m event after running second in the Golden Eagle, but he was a significant drifter on race day, getting out to $4.80 prior to the jump.
After jumping from barrier 13, jockey Brock Ryan found the fence behind the leaders in what was a brilliant piece of riding.
At the top of the straight, Ryan brought the four-year-old to the middle of the track and chased down last year’s winner, Archedemus, to salute by 1.3 lengths.
“There was pressure from the media and punters but Robert and Luke didn’t put any pressure on me,” Ryan said.
“Before I went out for the Golden Eagle, Robert said don’t look at the (speed) maps, ride on instinct and go out and get the job done.
THE LOCAL HOPE COUNT DE RUPEE BLITZES THEM IN THE $1 MILLION GONG! pic.twitter.com/AWxpffxM39
— 7HorseRacing 🐎 (@7horseracing) November 20, 2021
“It was the same today, he said ride on instinct, back yourself and back this horse.
“Everything panned out beautifully today and I had the best horse underneath me.”
Count De Rupee defeated Chris Waller’s mare Nudge and bottom-weight Yamazaki, while market fancies Aramayo, Dawn Passage and Attishu finished ninth, 10th and 11th respectively.
Ryan has a strong affiliation with the gelding, having now ridden him five times for two wins and three placings, while he said he was thrilled to win The Gong for his bosses.
“Six years ago today I rode my first winner at Adaminaby at a non-TAB meeting,” Ryan said.
“Here we are today winning a $1 million race on my home track.
“This is a huge thing, especially to win for my bosses, Robert and Luke. They are massive supporters of mine and they promote me as much as they can, give me every opportunity under the sun and it is so good to capitalise for them – and gee, he is a good horse.”
Count De Rupee will now be set for a tilt at next year’s running of The Everest, where he is a $51 chance in early futures markets.