Trainer's relief as Duelling Goddess finally wins at Grafton
"She deserved that," Inverell-based Smith added and few could argue with his sentiments, especially Smith's partner and the seven-year-old mare's former trainer Joanna Methven.
Duelling Goddess still races in Methven's colours.
"Jo does most of the work with her. I'm just the truck driver," Smith added tongue in cheek. "The mare and Jo deserve all the credit."
Under Methven, Duelling Goddess, a full-sister to another New Zealand-bred handy stayer Two Times A Lady, won two races before being transferred under Smith's name in July last year.
The mare's first three runs for Smith were not notable, but since then, in 12 starts, Duelling Goddess recorded five seconds, five thirds and two fourths. An amazingly consistent record returning a cheque on each occasion.
Until yesterday, however, the mare had been denied a well-deserved win.
There was relief all round.
Before yesterday Duelling Goddess had recorded five successive thirds including three during the July Racing Carnival in Grafton.
"She raced three times over a 10-day period during the carnival against some handy opposition. That just shows how tough she is," Smith added with a touch of pride.
"We don't do that much with her in between runs, just long staying work," she said.
"She's toughened up and seasoned with the travelling and everything. She's rock hard fit and just a happy horse."
Smith also praised the winning ride of Darren Jones, who timed his run to perfection to beat early leader Space Invader ($3.40) and Ted And Tubs ($21).
"He's the most under-rated rider in country racing," Smith said with conviction.
Duelling Goddess started the $3.40 equal favourite in the Horse Of The Year Dinner September 19 Benchmark 60 Hcp (2208m).
Meanwhile, Murwillumbah trainer Carolyn Halliday made the most of a deal with a former owner when Colberry scored at $41 in the Northern Breeders Race Day Maiden (1206m), while Boyd Streak Hawk snuck into second place in the third behind the John Shelton-trained Battalion in the May'Haab @Glenthorne Park Maiden (1006m).
"I was training for an owner and he wanted to pull out of the horses," Halliday recalled. "He owed me a bit of money and said I could have them in lieu of the payment."
Halliday isn't complaining about the unusual deal.