Storm greats rejoice as Kiwia joins select band
DEFYING history, track bias and an eight-race losing streak, Kiwia has swept into the Ballarat Cup record books with a dramatic win in the Listed $500,000 feature.
Only the sixth horse since in the race's history to land successive Cups, Kiwia ($17) gave young trainer Archie Alexander one of his most cherished wins as John Allen rejoiced in a hometown success.
Raced by Gerry Ryan, rugby league greats Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Cameron Munster and John Ribot and News Corp executive Peter Blunden, Kiwia defied Double You Tee ($9.50) and Another Dollar ($20) in a desperate finish.
Victory was the result of months of planning by Alexander, who inherited the gelding from Darren Weir after the premiership trainer's disqualification in February.
"To land a big winner on a big day when we've aimed the horse for this day, this is not an afterthought, this is a plan," a beaming Alexander said after securing the final feature of the spring.
"Luckily it happened today.
"It's a hometown Cup and probably more special because he's a horse that we came here not overly confident with.
"He hasn't won in 12 months, he's an old boy who's had his issues."
Despite that, Alexander and his wife Annie had never lost faith in the six-year-old, who raced three-wide with cover before striking the front late.
"Great effort by all of our staff and a big shout out to Andy Hamilton, our vet," Alexander said. "I sort of refer to him (Kiwia) like a Roger Federer, he's not getting any younger.
"It's been quite hard to keep him in one piece."
Whatever pre-race nerves Alexander endured, his mind was immediately eased by Kiwi's demeanour.
"Amazing. In the mounting yard, he was bouncing," he said. "He knew what is was about. I don't know why he peaked on this day, but he's absolutely flying."
Allen would probably have missed the winning ride had Harbour Views gained a start.
When Matthew Williams decided to bypass the Cup with his boom import, Allen was freed to partner Kiwia.
"I might have been lucky that horse (Harbour Views) didn't get a run," he said. "So, lucky Archie and the owners decided to wait to see if he could get a run and that worked out great for me.
"I had a good run. Three wide with cover. He was under pressure from the 600 and he was caught a little flat-footed but once I peeled him off the back of Mick Dee's horse (Suzuka Devious), he did accelerate quick and got there comfortable enough.
"I thought with 50 (metres) to go Billy (Egan on Double You Tee) out wide might get me but, to this lad's credit, he put his head down and tried hard."