AN UNEXPECTED phone call in May proved the catalyst to Gayna Williams gaining the best-bred galloper to enter her stables - yesterday's Grafton winner Toolbag.
The son of super sire Redoute's Choice from the Strawberry Road mare Strawberry Girl is a full-brother to Gai Waterhouse's star galloper Strawberry Boy.
Toolbag, bred by John Singleton's Strawberry Hill stud, was raced previously by Patinack Farm under trainer John Thompson, winning one of 12 starts.
"Out of the blue I got a call and the voice said, 'you probably don't remember me, it's Bob Dawson. I heard you were training out of Grafton and I'd like to find you a horse to train,'" Williams said.
"I did recognise the voice. Bob and I go back a long way."
Williams, when based at Bathurst, got now Sydney-based Dawson his first horse, which won on debut and was later sold.
Dawson contacted Vin Cox from Magic Millions and with Kim Regler they formed a syndicate to race the beautifully bred gelding.
"He was due to go through the Patinack Farm dispersal sale but had a bout of colic at the time and the boys got him later privately," Williams said.
Ridden by in-form Terry Treichel and arriving in the nick of time out wide, Toolbag beat Just So Bruno and Outrider in the XXXX Class 1 Hcp (1000m).
For a staying bred horse to win first-up over an unsuitable distance earmarked his promise.
"I was worried the 1000 metres might be too short," Williams admitted. "Kim (Regler) rang before the race and said Bob Dawson was overseas.
"He reckoned every time he or Bob are away they win a race."
The unusual omen proved fruitful.
Toolbag entered Williams' stables in July.
"He's a lovely big horse with quality but he's had two knee operations," she said.
"Because of that I treat him with kid gloves. He doesn't take a lot of work.
"He gets a lot of bush walks and has got residual fitness."
As for the five-year-old's future, Williams remains upbeat.
"If he stands up he's got a good future, definitely," she said.
Queensland jockey Michael Palmer made a successful hit-and-run visit, winning aboard Sophia's Son for Gold Coast-based trainer Darryl Caldwell.
Caldwell, who grew up with respected Melbourne trainer Robert Smerdon at Ballarat and later worked with the multiple Group One-winning mentor, dabbles with a couple of horses.
However, his main income base is from selling horses to Hong Kong and Singapore.
Sophia's Son was actually sold to Singapore clients after trialling but later failed the vet test.
The well-backed three-year-old led throughout to win the L J Hooker Maiden (1400m), beating Connolly and Train Robber.