With trainer and part-owner Joe Pride watching on from afar, New Zealand-bred gelding King Of The Castle took his career earnings past A$500,000 with a typically tenacious performance at Kembla Grange.
The seven-year-old son of Castledale has now had a total of 25 starts for seven wins, six placings and A$508,946 in prize-money.
King Of The Castle went into Saturday’s race with gallant fourth placings under his belt from both of his previous two starts, including the A$3 million The Big Dance (1600m) at Randwick on November 7. But the gutsy gelding was not entirely at home on firm tracks in both of those two races, and he relished the return to rain-affected ground at Kembla Grange.
Rider Josh Parr settled King Of The Castle in fourth place on Saturday, a wide margin behind the leading trio. He dragged the chasing pack up behind those rivals coming up to the home turn, then lengthened stride and finished over the top of the leaders down the straight to score by half a length.
“He can be a bit of a funny horse, you can never really know if you have him,” Parr said. “I wasn’t quite sure how he was going to come up under me when those leaders accelerated off the front. But I gave him a couple of slaps on the shoulder, just to see if there’d be a response there, and there was.
“By the time we passed the 300, he was really getting through his gears and I was feeling pretty confident.”
Pride and his family are currently on holiday in Japan, but the Warwick Farm trainer was represented at Kembla Grange by racing manager Orla Pearl.
“They’re most definitely watching, no need to worry about that,” Pearl said. “I’ve had comments all day, so they’re definitely watching.
“This horse was backing up from Newcastle last Saturday, and Josh said before he went out today that he loves riding Joe’s horses on the back-up.
“This horse is usually a little bit quirky, but today he was so relaxed. I said to his strapper that I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but it was obviously a good thing.
“We just wanted to see him on a softer track, because he just wasn’t quite stretching out on the hard ground.”
Bred by Ravelston Stud, King Of The Castle began his career with Riverton trainer Kelvin Tyler, for whom he won three races.
Tyler and wife Vanessa still share in the ownership of the now seven-year-old, who has won a further four races for Pride from 14 starts in Australia.