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It was a feat that surprised even his trainer when four-year-old River Lad stormed home to win the WJ Healy Stakes at Eagle Farm this afternoon.

River Lad

River Lad's win in the WJ Healy Stakes surprised even his trainer - photo © Daniel Costello

River Lad won the Group 3 race in impressive style in front of second place-getter Excelebration, while Griffon finished third.

The Top Echelon gelding has now won nine of his 22 race starts and has earned more than $450,000 in prize money during his career.

It was the first Group 3 win of trainer Natalie McCall’s career, and the thrill of the result was evident after the race.

“A surprise win’s always the greatest,” McCall said.

“I was happy just picking off a few races in town so a Group 3 is just out of this world for me.

“He was super fresh today so it’s helped.”

River Lad is no stranger to the winner’s circle at Eagle Farm, winning his share of Saturday races at the course over the past 12 months.

Despite his obvious talent, nobody could believe that he had come through with the goods in his first Group 3 attempt.

Jockey Tim Bell rode the gelding in today’s WJ Healy Stakes run and was excited to add yet another Group title to his name this winter.

The Brisbane Racing Carnival has been a time of firsts for Bell, who claimed a Group win aboard Fantastic Blue at big odds in the Group 3 Premier’s Cup in May.

The jockey then went on to win the Group 3 BRC Sprint and Group 2 QTC Cup with Celtic Dancer, before today’s success with River Lad.

“I was actually surprised by the way he jumped,” Bell said of River lad’s performance.

“He jumped really well. He sort of bounced on the bunny.”

River Lad is now expected to continue his campaign throughout the winter, possibly targeting races such as the Listed Ascot Handicap in two weeks’ time.


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