The unheralded Big Tree led from start to finish to record an upset victory in the 2015 Ken Russell Memorial Classic at the Gold Coast this afternoon.
Big Tree jumped quickly from barrier two and jockey Michael Cahill elected to take up the running in the early stages of the race, while Blake Shinn settled the clear favourite Regatta Rebel just off the leader.
Big Tree looked like a sitting duck at the top of the straight when Regatta Rebel loomed on his outside and Look To The Stars worked home strongly up the inside, but Big Tree was extremely tough in the final stages and held off his rivals to record a Ken Russell Memorial Classic victory for local trainer Peter Balzen.
Balzen revealed after the race that he has always had a big opinion of Big Tree and the colourful trainer was clearly delighted to have recorded one of the biggest wins of his training career.
“The local place is great,” Balzen said.
“We bred the horse and it is like one of your kids, so we are really excited.
“Michael Cahill tried to get on him the other day because he said he liked his trials, so that always makes you buoyant.
“The good gate made all the difference and he made use of it.”
Regatta Rebel started the Ken Russell Memorial Classic as a clear favourite after she made her racing debut with a strong second place finish behind the highly-rated Furnaces in the Group 3 Kindergarten Stakes (1100m) at Royal Randwick on April 6, but the Redoute’s Choice filly did not show the same acceleration in the final stages of the Group 3 event and she tired late to finish third.
Blueberry Hill was facing the toughest test of her racing career to date after she started her racing career with victories in the Centenary Classic Mercedes-Benz Handicap (1050m) at Doomben on February 28 and the J Oliver & B McFarlane Handicap (1200m) at the Sunshine Coast on April 5 and the daughter of Myboycharlie failed the line strongly to finish second.
Balzen is yet to determine his 2015 Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival plans for Big Tree, but the Group 2 Champagne Classic (1200m) at Doomben on May 9, the Group 2 BRC Sires Produce Stakes (1350m) at the same venue on May 23 and the Group 1 J.J. Atkins (1600m) on June 6 could all be on the agenda for the Ken Russell Memorial Classic winner.