Smith's Gamble Pays Off As Mudgee Dominates CDRA Championships

By Ray Hickson

Mudgee trainer David Smith had been bullish all week that his stable star Lockdown Gamble was back to his best and that view was vindicated when the gelding handed him his second win in the $150,000 Newhaven Park CDRA Country Championships (1400m).

And it was a Mudgee quinella as Mack Griffiths' mare Musical Affair ran a gallant second, leading until the shadows.

Smith won the 2017 Central Districts Championships, run at Wellington, with Distinctive Look and he went into the Mudgee race confident it was his best chance since then to win another.

Lockdown Gamble wins the Newhaven Park CDRA Country Championships at Mudgee (Pic: Janian McMillan)

Lockdown Gamble made it to the Final in 2022, after running third in the Mudgee race and being called up to go to Randwick when the first and second placegetters were ruled out, but a year ago lost all form and finished near the tail.

The six-year-old, partnered by Aaron Bullock, enjoyed a run forward of midfield and produced a late charge to run down Musical Affair near the line with Ida's Rules running third.

“This is going to top (Distinctive Look’s win). I was just as confident as I was that year,’’ Smith said.

“He’s been going super this time. We really thought we gave up a Highway win there going first-up at Cowra but we just wanted to build confidence with the horse again.

“Last preparation everyone knows he was below par, I'm making no excuses for him. We were scratching our heads ourselves.

“The eleven months off did him the world of good, he’s come back physically stronger and mentally stronger.”

Smith only has around eight in work and wins like these are important, not only because it’s a $150,000 race but due to the exposure such a win, and a berth in the $1 million Final, can provide.

“At the top of the straight I thought I went the early crow, I’m not going to lie,’’ Smith said.

“Then I saw Musical (Affair) kick again, then bang right on the line the cheers went up. It’s an awesome feeling, especially a race like that. It just does wonders for you.”

Bullock is no stranger to winning a Country Championships race, though he’s yet to win a Final, and said the race panned out perfectly for Lockdown Gamble but that there was no room for error.

He said his confidence grew when he was able to offset a tricky draw quickly and knew the gelding would be strong at the finish.

“I didn’t want to ask him to do too much to hold a spot early,’’ Bullock said.

“To Mack’s horse’s credit it gave a good kick and made us chase, but he tried all the way to the line and felt like there was a bit more there.

“I could tell where (the leader) was in the run and where I was and I knew if I was going to get there it’d be the last 20m.”

Lockdown Gamble is now a $21 chance in TAB’s Newhaven Park Country Championships Final market with Musical Affair at $34.