FOR months, Art Cadeau had been pegged as one of the favourites for the 2021 Racing NSW Country Championships.
And the four-year-old gelding, trainer by Regal Lodge's Terry Robinson, well and truly lived up the billing during Saturday's final at Royal Randwick.
Despite starting from barrier two, Art Cadeau, with jockey Tommy Berry on board, hit the front early and never relinquished his lead - to win the 1400 metre race by 0.5 lengths from Gary Colvin's Another One.
"I think all us trainers had a bit of trouble with the wet and it affected everyone," Robinson told Sky Racing.
"Nearly an eight-week break was a big effort by the horse.
"There were a few concerns with him this preparation and things haven't gone exactly to plan but full credit to the horse - he's just a lovely horse.
"Fortunately enough he got in the right alley in the final and had the best rider on board - it's all worked out really well.
"It was special to have Tommy riding for us - we've had a close association over the years.
"He's ridden a fair few winners for me over the years and what's so special about Tommy is that he's so good off the track - he's just a genuine bloke, that's a good mate and is fantastic for the sport of racing.
"This ranks much higher than winning a TAB Highway race - it's the ultimate."
While this may be the Shoalhaven Heads-based trainer's first Country Championship, the 2021 event was the second for Berry, who won in 2016 with Clearly Innocent.
"It is like riding a Group One winner," Berry said.
"There are so many good people in this horse.
"Terry gave me no instructions but there was a real lack of speed in the race.
"I didn't really want to lead on him but he is a real momentum horse.
"Once I got him into a nice rhythm and he found the front, he pricked his ears and I got a couple of easy sectionals.
"From the top of the straight it was all about building him up and he was way too good for them."
Following a spell, Robinson didn't rule out the possibility of Art Cadeau backing at the Spring Carnival's Kosciuszko in October.
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