By Tony White
Former Vietnam veteran and real estate proprietor Tas Morton backed his judgement in the $12,000 Westlawn Finance Grafton Cup Prelude (2200m) and came up with 'Extra Dollars.'
In a stunning upset to all but the Port Macquarie trainer and his stable staff, four-year-old gelding Extra Dollars earned a start in next Thursday's $175,000 XXXX Gold Grafton Cup (2400m) by winning the Prelude convincingly.
Locally-trained heartbreak horse Concitare, who made headlines when trainer Bruce Swan forgot to nominate the giant gelding for the Grafton Cup, was beaten out of a place as odds on ($1.70) favourite.
Ridden superbly by wise cracking jockey Allan Robinson, Extra Dollars forged to a 3/4-length win over Aquatic Drive and Rodeo Chute Out.
Concitare, who raced flat, finished a disappointing fifth.
"We were always confident he could win," a delighted Morton said. "He's had genuine excuses lately why he's got beaten. At Murwillumbah last start he kept getting pushed wider and wider on the track.
"This horse has developed into a very handy stayer. He's got a bit of personality about him and Robbo rode him a treat."
When Robinson dismounted Morton's first question to the jockey was: "will you stick with him in the Cup?"
"I'll have to wait and speak to my manager," Robinson replied diplomatically.
Extra Dollars, by American stallion Beautiful Crown, won his eighth race from 37 starts yesterday.
The four-year-old is owned by Morton and Port Macquarie retiree, Bob Laing.
Morton paid $20,000 at the Scone yearling sales for the bay gelding.
"Bob and I are real good mates, we've raced several horses together," Morton said. "Our daughters go to pony club together."
While Morton owned a real estate agency until selling the business last year, the fun loving 56-year-old has, since returning from Vietnam in the early 1970s, always owned and trained several horses.
And he's good at the caper too.
"I've managed to have a bit of luck at Grafton," Morton said. "When I came back from Vietnam Darryl Taylor and I won the big two-year-old race over the carnival with Colonel Macad.
"I've got about 20 in work at the moment, most of them my own and we had a treble at home the other day.
"I'm in the horses for fun."
Morton said Extra Dollars would return home to Port Macquarie and have a quiet lead up to the Grafton Cup.
"He probably won't have a saddle on him, he'll just have a swim and be walked," Morton said. "He's fit now and ready for the Cup."
Local trainer Terry Commerford said Aquatic Drive's performance coming from a rearward position on straightening to run an encouraging second, earned the mare a short term reprieve from motherhood.
"On that performance, if she gets a run, I'll have to back her up in the Grafton Cup," Commerford said.
Concitare is expected to back up in Sunday's 45,000 South Grafton Cup (1600m).