Big-hearted filly comes through

Ruby Wingate (Stuart McCormick)

Michael Howard

The filly that signifies generations of family involvement in the trots has catapulted the Stephens family to Group 2 delight, with Ruby Wingate a dominant winner at Tabcorp Park Melton.

The Alabar Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic pacing finals headlined Saturday night’s racing, with Narutac Prince winning the colts and geldings division for trainer-driver David Aiken before the fillies was claimed by trainer Adam Stephens’ aforementioned three-year-old.

Ruby Wingate (pictured), bred by Adam’s dad Allan and driven by Mick Bellman, saluted in dominant style, bustling three-wide for much of the last lap but proving in a class of her own in clearing out to win by 14 metres.

“I was just basically staying out of trouble,” Bellman told Trots Vision post-race. “One thousand from home I thought the leaders have done a bit, we can chance our arm and stay out of the way of everyone else.

“I knew I had the right horse underneath me, it was just a matter of having a free passage.”

He found that and advanced clear amid a 57.3-second last half to comfortably record the memorable win, which meant plenty to the Stephens.

Ahead of the filly’s debut last July, Adam Stephens told his grandmother, Ruby Wingate, inspired the ‘Wingate’ brand that the family’s horses had carried since 1977.

“My grandmother was a very big-hearted woman,” Adam said. “She worked with dad (Allan) and the horses into her 80s.

“That was why I named her after my grandmother – for Dad. She is a very big-hearted filly and I thought she carried the heart of my grandmother, to be truthful.”

She showed all those attributes tonight and the significance was not lost on Bellman.

“To win this one for Adam and his dad, (they) are the true meaning of loyalty,” Bellman said. “I’ve driven for them since I was a kid and they’ve stuck with me through thick and thin. Just to win a Group 2 for these boys tonight, it’s very special.

“Allan had a photo of his mum in his pocket, who the horse is named after, these feel-good stories, this is what makes the long hours and miles worth it.”

Some very astute breeders were also involved in the colts and geldings result, with Bruce and Vicki Edward continuing their fine tradition of Victorian trots dominance with Narutac Prince.

The Art Major colt, who’s a half-brother to Turn It Up ($492,312), Treasure ($161,402) and Perfect Sense ($143,530), controlled the race from in front and responded when challenged late by impressive Hy Leinvincible.

The victory was a fourth from as many starts for trainer-driver David Aiken.

Both successful breeders of the Home Grown Classic hail from the Ballarat district and that trend continued into the IRT Australia Shakamaker Classic, with late breeder Kenneth Griffey having produced the winner.

The quality two-year-olds race’s honour roll includes the likes of Restrepo, Centenario and Be Happy Mach and on Saturday they were joined by Solesseo Matuca courtesy of a peach of a drive by Darby McGuigan.

Taking the reins for trainer Damien Burns and owners Frank and Maria Cotronea and Greg Burns, McGuigan cut the corner at the final bend to grab ground on front runners Luvbite (second) and Jawsoflincoln (third) and win by two metres.