Charlotte Lu justified her short-priced favouritism in Friday night's $50,000 Group 1 Selwyn-Rakaia Vet Services New Zealand Oaks, with the daughter of Fabregas and Tee Time scoring in 30.10.
Opawa Gina jumped straight to the front off Box 6, but Charlotte Lu was able to capitalise on Box 1 and railed smartly to assume control of the race going into the first bend. From there, nothing was able to catch her, with Opawa Gina making up good late ground to finish second ahead of Milky Tea.
"I was on a high for the weekend, but I wasn't on a high for about the first 10 seconds of the race – I thought, 'we're all done here!'" laughed winning trainer Tony Hart.
"But she went really good. It was unbelievable the way she went underneath Opawa Gina going around that first bend and then powered away. We were rapt.
"It was the quickest she's ever run home, so I'm really happy about that – she's obviously getting stronger."
Charlotte Lu and the rest of the team were rewarded with "heaps of cuddles and pats" when they got home.
"And really good food," added Hart. "They get fed better than I do!"
Her next assignment will be Race 5 at Invercargill on Friday, where she will come up against the talented Talbingo Bale.
"Two weeks after that, we'll probably head back to Southland and then up to Manawatu for the Matariki. Then, she'll come back for the Canterbury Futurity."
Owned by Jose Arthur, Charlotte Lu has now won 15 from 31 races and has amassed just under $80,000 in prizemoney.
Hart trained three winners on Friday night, and also picked up a remarkable six wins at Addington the night before.
"It worked out really well. I got a text from Donald and Jose Arthur after the races on Thursday night, saying they hoped I hadn't done all my winning on that night! The first couple of races on Friday, I was worried they were right, but we turned it around!
"We're really lucky. Our staff are unbelievable, they put in the effort, there's no shortcuts, even right from Day One."
One race earlier, there was an upset in the Group 1 Active Electrical Christchurch New Zealand St Leger.
Canterbury trainer Craig Roberts had two runners in the event, but it was his least fancied runner, Melville Bale, who took out the $30,000 feature, with Naya Bale finishing in second to make it a Roberts-trained quinella. Opawa Superstar finished in third for Jean and Dave Fahey, ahead of his kennelmate, Opawa Wayne.
Melville Bale, a Victorian import, had only had six previous starts in New Zealand, and this was his first attempt at Group race glory. He found the early lead off Box 8, and dug deep to hold off the late challenges of Naya Bale and Opawa Superstar.
"I thought Naya Bale was a better chance, but I didn't think Melville Bale was without a chance," said Craig Roberts. "I thought that they both had draws that suited them.
"It was bloody good to get the quinella! Melville did everything right – he jumped, hunted up and got to the lead."
Both greyhounds will now likely target the Group 1 Waterloo Cup next month.
It was a special night for Roberts, who trained five winners on the programme, including three quinellas.
"The stars aligned on the right night!" he laughed.
Know Keeper continued to assert his dominance on the New Zealand staying ranks, when he took out the Group 2 Kingston Cup with ease on Friday night. The talented son of Know Class and Know Jinx quickly found the front and scored by eight lengths over Humbling and Nighthawk Style.
"We're very happy with him," said trainer Garry Cleeve. "It was a wee bit of a concern that he hadn't had a race for four weeks and you always sort of wonder if you're doing enough at home and you can't beat being race fit, but he went well.
"There's always going to be the time that he does get beaten, but at the moment, he's sort of the dominant staying dog and racing like it too."
He is now unbeaten in 14 attempts over 600m and further, and the Silver Collar now looms – and then, potentially a stint across the ditch.
"The Nationals (at Wentworth Park on August 27) are something that I'd consider. We looked at going to Australia with him before, but the clashes with the races here didn't work.
"And money's not everything. In my association with the sport, I've never won one of the big three – the New Zealand Cup, Silver Collar, or the Auckland Cup. I've placed in all three of them on various occasions, but have never actually won one.
"So the Silver Collar in Auckland is our next immediate target – and now with Gerry (O'Keeffe) coming over with Here's Tears, it creates that Aussie-New Zealand rivalry as well for the race."