Double delight

By Benalla Ensign

Victoria’s leading jockey Linda Meech was again the star of the day at Thursday’s Benalla races, landing a double to help keep her at the head of the premiership table.

Her first winner was Social Secret in the $22000 McDonald’s Benalla Plate, a race for three-year-old maidens over 1406m.

She backed that up in the seventh on the card — the $18000 Bet365 handicap over 1206m with Prairie Sun, which started the day as third emergency for the field.

Social Secret was just off the leader all the way around, made a challenge in the straight and then seemed to find another gear over the last 200m, and spread-eagled the field to win running away.

It was a beautifully judged race, and the horse’s kick at the finish simply left everyone flatfooted — completing a classy maiden win.

Trainers Matthew Ellerton and Simon Zahra had Social Secret using a tongue tie, coming back from a month off.

Meech said her original plan had been to ride from the front, but the initial speed saw that changed.

‘‘I was going to be happy to lead, but then the horse on my outside had a little bit more speed, so I just wanted to keep her happy because she can be a little tricky to ride,’’ Meech said.

‘‘We had drawn a lovely gate (2) and she settled reasonably well,’’ she said.

‘‘She has started to learn a bit and basically did everything right today — I’ll be very surprised if she doesn’t win a few more races.’’

If Meech was happy with her first winner she was more than excited about her second.

After bringing Prairie Sun back to scale a delighted Meech said she had ridden the horse ‘‘a heap of times, but I don’t think I have ever won on him’’.

‘‘He always runs an honest race and he did that again today, he didn’t give me any trouble in the running,’’ Meech added.

‘‘We just kept off the speed and then weaved our way through and he was the last horse standing on the line so it was good.’’

Prairie Sun’s trainer, the veteran Liz Aalbers, only has two horses in work (Smooth Danish failed to run a place in the $20000 Ryan & McNulty Sawmillers BM64 over 1606m).

‘‘Prairie Sun is a little horse that has been racing well after being a bit stiff at its most recent Albury and Wagga starts,’’ Aalbers said.

‘‘He has to be ridden back a bit, like Linda did today, she’s a top rider.

‘‘He’s honest, he tries hard, he’s no world beater, but if you get horses that try you’ve got a chance.’’

There was almost, but not quite, a little bit of racing magic completed in race six — the $18000 Comfort Inn Benalla BM58 over 2046m.

On Monday last week Mansfield trainer Gerald Egan won his 16th Mansfield Cup with the five-year-old gelding.

The horse was bred and is raced by the Corr family, who also owned Wee Jimmy, Egan’s first Mansfield Cup winner.

‘‘I always try to have a runner in my hometown cup, it’s one of the events we look for every year,’’ Egan said at Mansfield.

‘‘If Dakota puts his best foot forward I will set him for Benalla on Thursday for a 2000m run.’’

And he almost pulled it off, finishing third to Haunted Stream, but only after being run down close to the line.