A plan that had been 12 months in the planning came to fruition when the Greg Bennett trained Clearly Innocent (Tommy Berry) stormed down the outside to win the Hunter and North West Country Championship Qualifier (1400m) at Scone on Sunday.
The Bennett trained All Summer Long (Blake Shinn) finished second, beaten one and a quarter lengths and both horses have qualified for the final at Randwick on April 2.
Yet another of Bennett’s four runners, Invienna (Christian Reith) finished fourth and she will go to the Championship Wild Card at Muswellbrook on March 27.
His fourth runner, Chivadahlii, finished ninth but is likely to miss the Wild Card.
“I will have to look at the replay before I make a final decision but I don’t think he will go to the wild card,” Bennett said.
“I think he is looking for further, probably 1800 metres.
“Last year’s championship sort of caught us unawares but after it was over we decided to get serious about it this year.
“Horses went in and out but we were always focussed on this race and qualifying horses for the final.
“Clearly Innocent is such a big, long striding horse and he has had a lot of problems but he is a very good horse.
“All Summer Long is just consistent, consistent and it was a great effort to run second and a great ride by Blake Shinn.
“All four horses will go to the paddock to get over the race but both Clearly Innocent and All Summer
Long will have another race before the final.”
Clearly Innocent was bred and is owned by Cressfield Stud and was not offered for sale as a yearling.
“Without going into it he had a lot of problems so we gave him a long time to get over them,” the stud’s General Manager, Wayne Bedggood, said.
“He had three or four preparations at Evergreen before we went him to Greg.
“Normally when you draw barrier 15 with a horse you anything but happy but in this case we were rapt because he is such a big striding horse and needed the room.”
Berry had Clearly Innocent back with the tail enders and three and four wide before he started to edge a little closer from the 600 mertes.
At this point the field bunched and Clearly Innocent was last and the widest runner.
However he exploded in the straight as he gathered in the field to win by one and a quarter lengths in a class and track record time.
It was an all Scone finish with the Rod Northam trained Sargent Doakes (Andrew Adkins) running third and another of his horses, After All That, running fifth.
“Both those horses ran super and they will go to the Wild Card,” Northam said.