Time spent walking the testing racing surface before her first ride of the day paid a handsome dividend for apprentice Rebecca Black as she guided her mount Keep The Courage to a narrow victory in the first race on a big day of racing at Riccarton on Saturday.
Steering a wide path in the home straight after biding her time at the rear of the field throughout the running, Black found the best going in the drive to the line to narrowly nab Karaka Jack, who had looked the winner when he burst to the lead early in the run home.
"It was really hard work out there but I had spent an hour before the race walking the track and I found a few spots where I thought would be the best place to be," explained a delighted Black.
"He is a tough horse who is more mentally mature now he is 12 months older and he just tried his heart out."
Trainer Kelvin Tyler was delighted for his rider although he admitted he did have his doubts that she was doing the right thing as the field swung for home.
"I knew he was well and he likes the wet ground but I wasn't sure she was in the right spot as I thought it was better in the middle of the track but I guess you can't argue now," he admitted.
"I think the mile is his best go so we will stick to that over the next few months as we go through the winter."
The 5-year-old gelding had been successful at the corresponding meeting 12 months earlier and has now taken his career record to four wins and five minor placings from just 20 starts, with three of the four wins coming at Riccarton.
The adage that "when the going gets tough, the tough get going" was a perfect summation for the effort of nuggety galloper Uppland as he made light of a 60kg impost to score a convincing win in rating 85 company at Riccarton at the weekend.
The Kenny and Lisa Rae-trained northern raider led all the way in the hands of Jamie Bates to win comfortably in a time of 1.16.72 for the 1200-metre journey that left his nine rivals floundering in his wake on the heavy track. "He had travelled down well but I was a wee bit worried about the weight as the track looked very testing," noted Rae after the race.
"I did think about claiming on him but he is such a tough horse to ride that we went for an experienced jockey as Jamie seems to get on well with him.
"He has always shown plenty of ability and won a race at Eagle Farm earlier in his career so we knew he was good enough to win today."
Bates was full of praise for his mount as he returned to the winner's enclosure after the race.
"It was a tough effort as you can't dictate to him, you just have to let him do his own thing," he explained.
"He has plenty of ability but you have to work out how to ride him so hopefully I've got that right now."
The rugged son of Bachelor Duke, who was stakes placed at listed level on two occasions as a 3-year-old, has now taken his record to five wins and 15 placings from just 37 starts.
He is the younger half-brother of the well-performed Upsala, who won six races during his career including the Listed Northland Breeders Stakes as a 2-year-old.