A brief look at The Gong undercard

Mandy Cottell looks back at the support races at Kembla Grange.

Trainer : KIM WAUGH.
Trainer : KIM WAUGH. Picture: Martin King / Sportpix

Unanimous victory for McDonald 

 Ciaron Maher pinpointed champion jockey James Mcdonald as the difference between victory and defeat after quirky gelding Unanimous narrowly took out the opening race at The Gong meeting. 

The six-year-old can be a handful to ride and Maher said it took all of McDonald's nous to get the best out of him, while a wet track helped as well. 

"Lucky we had him on really, he had to use all his riding aids and all his strength to get him over the line," Maher said. 

"But I think the last time he won was on a heavy track, so we were quite happy when the track came up like that today and his last run was encouraging with the shades. 

"He's not the easiest ride, as you can see, but it all panned out pretty well for him. 

"He got him into stride, typically he can be a slow beginner, so probably a winning move that as well." 

Maher was trackside at Kembla a day after making his first foray to the annual Bong Bong Cup meeting, an experience that whetted his appetite for a return visit next year. 

"It won't be the last time, that's for sure," Maher said. 

Maher has a connection to the region having taken over the lease of nearby Bong Bong Farm earlier this year, a state-of-the-art property in the NSW Southern Highlands which he uses to complement his Sydney operation. 

Big Dance dream for Zouatica 

Co-trainer Paul Jones believes Saturday's Highway Handicap winner Zouatica has the scope to develop into an ideal candidate for the Big Dance and he is hoping to secure an early qualification via next month's Moruya Cup. 

The lightly raced Zouatica ($3.10 fav) took his record to four wins from seven starts with a bold return in the 1400m race, defeating Mosgold ($10) by 1-3/4 lengths with Unrelenting ($9) another length away third. 

Jones said the four-year-old was likely to have another run before the Moruya feature, while the Country Championships wasn't off the table either. 

"The Country Championship is there but he could be a Big Dance horse by this time next year," Jones said. 

"He was only first-up today, so we might look for a nice race in town for him before the Moruya Cup [on January 8], which is a Big Dance qualifier. 

"After that, we will see how he sits and we could go back to the Country Championship heat if he is eligible." 

Zouatica was partnered to victory by Adam Hyeronimus, who was confident the horse could continue to progress through the grades. 

"He's got a good, long, big, beautiful action and he's obviously got a little bit more ability than a class three Highway, so it's good to see him come and do that first-up on a heavy track off a good break," Hyeronimus said. 

"There's no reason he won't go on with it." 

Waugh a fan of Love 

The Provincial-Midway Championships is the likely autumn target for in-form mare Shadows Of Love, although trainer Kim Waugh believes the four-year-old could reach even bigger heights. 

Waugh's first horse for Louis Mihalyka's Laurel Oak Bloodstock, Shadows Of Love took her record to four wins from 10 starts with a 2-1/4 length romp over West Of Dalby in the PFD Food Services Handicap (1200m) at Kembla on Saturday. 

It was her second win in succession after plundering a Midway Handicap at Rosehill last start and Waugh said she would put some thought into her next move. 

"We've been trying to pick the (right) races for her, now we will sit down and look at a few things," Waugh said. 

"She has been that grade where we could go through the grades nicely, so that has been great. 

"She was in the 1400 as well today. I did say to (husband) Mark (Waugh), I'm glad she's in the 1200 being a heavy track so it worked out well." 

Waugh believes next year's Championships (1400m) could be a nice target for Shadows Of Love but says she also won't be surprised to see the mare measure up to stakes grade in time. 

Price gelding finds the right Lane 

Victory Lane could also be bound for the Provincial-Midway Championships after landing an overdue win at his home track. 

Co-trainer Luke Price said they had aimed the horse at the Four Pillars earlier this month but he'd had no luck in that, nor in his lead-up run. 

It briefly looked like that might be the case again when Victory Lane was held up at the top of the straight in Saturday's Midway Handicap (1400m) before Brock Ryan extricated him into the clear, balanced him up and Victory Lane swooped. 

"We didn't want another hard luck story, that's for sure, and I'm sure Brock didn't either," Price said. 

"He's had no luck at all his last two runs, he has drawn bad barriers and his runs have been really good. 

"I think he's a perfect Provincial Championships horse. He will go to the paddock now and have a freshen up for that. 

"It's 1400, he can handle wet tracks, it's just ideal for him. He is probably a bit better than these sort of horses, but he just hasn't lived up to it yet." 

Quote of the Day: "He's a character. He's always on the springs, has a little buck, plays in the sand roll every single day. He is full of himself but he is very much loved." – Michael Freedman stable representative Sophie Johnson on The Warra winner Insurrection.