SCONE’S Greg Bennett and jockey Tommy Berry joined forces to win the prestigious The Country Championships Final at Randwick on Saturday.
Early race favourite Clearly Innocent claimed the $210,000 first prize from ex-Muswellbrook trainer Mack Griffith’s runner Pera Pera over the 1400m journey.
Ever So Natural, ridden by Damien Oliver, finished in third.
Muswellbrook Wild Card winner Chrysolaus was a further length or two behind in sixth.
Bennett’s triumph was a double celebration for the Scone community.
Clearly Innocent also represented The Scone Advocate in the TAB Editors’ Challenge.
“The winner’s local newspaper editor received $5000 to donate to a charity of their choice,” TAB’s Glenn Munsie said.
And, the Scone Advocate’s editor, Rod Thompson, said the hefty windfall would go to the Aberdeen Men’s Shed.
“It’s a terrific organisation; they do so much throughout the community,” he said. “It will be nice to give something back to them.
“Congratulations to Greg [Bennett] – he had Clearly Innocent peaking at the right time.
“Although, I was a bit concerned when it trailed the pack early on.
“But, Tommy [Berry] did a great job in the saddle. It’s a fantastic result all-round.”
Clearly Innocent was fortunate to be in the race as Bennett was preparing on Friday to withdraw the race favourite after already scratching All Summer Long when they both pulled up with a bruised off-side front hoof after light work at Scone that morning.
Farrier James Balfe came to his rescue and managed to get the star right to race..
"I was pretty down [on Friday] and the support I got from inside this industry from fellow trainers and ex-trainers and farriers and just friends was amazing," Bennett said.
Berry trusted Bennett’s call and after racing Clearly Innocent to another win believes he has a big future.
"[Bennett's] a freak of a trainer and he was so shattered by what had happened," Berry said. "He said to me, 'I'm not going to have the horse here if it's not 100 per cent'. I trusted that. When he told me the horse was coming I knew we were going to be sweet. I only had to ride him.
"If he goes out for a break and Greg wants to bring him back for the spring there's a few easier group races there, but he might be even better than that. He just keeps stepping up as the bar gets raised."
Cressfield Stud's Bruce Neill had intended to sell Clearly Innocent as a yearling, but couldn't muster enough interest.