CUP HERO: Sawtell Cup winner Eight Below earns automatic entry into the big one on August 2.
CUP HERO: Sawtell Cup winner Eight Below earns automatic entry into the big one on August 2. Greg White

Eight Below goes on top

SOME say jockeys and trainers make terrible judges but Sally Taylor turned the old adage on its head before winning the Aylward Auctioneers Sawtell Cup with Eight Below.

At the calcutta held at Sawtell Hotel the night before the first feature of the Coffs Harbour Gold Cup carnival, Taylor told host Gary Kliese she thought her horse was going to win and she was right on the money.

Jockey Belinda Hodder had an easy run to the line and now the 2016 Grafton Cup-winning trainer has automatic entry into the city's biggest race on August 2.

"I was quite surprised how forward she was and was quite dominant,” Taylor said.

"She can be her own worst enemy getting back in the field and has to be ridden for luck most of the time.

"Today she was ridden forward and kept finding the line.”

With an extra 100 metres to run in the Gold Cup, the trainer is growing in confidence as to her chances of claiming the second major of her short career.

"The Cup was the target from the moment I got her into the stable,” she added.

JOYFUL TEARS: Jasen Watkins was very emotional after Sally Taylor provided his comeback winner Fine Verse.
JOYFUL TEARS: Jasen Watkins was very emotional after Sally Taylor provided his comeback winner Fine Verse. Greg White

The winning jockey was always confident she had the rest of the field covered.

"Always travelled well in the run,” Hodder said.

"She was doing it easy on the line and had a bit of a look around.”

Fledgling apprentice Kyle Wilson-Taylor is tipped for big things and looked good winning on Lucky Meteor in the Daniel Baker Prelude.

The win gave the John Shelton-trained galloper an automatic entry into the feature sprint of the carnival but the handicapper will have a big say if it runs.

After the 4kg claim on Sunday, the horse carried 58kg but could be asked to carry a huge burden after that victory.

Trainer Taylor picked up a double on the day but the early win by outsider Fine Verse caused more than a few tears to be shed.

After two years of battles and a brief retirement, Jasen Watkins recorded his first win since coming back to race riding.

There was hardly a dry eye in the house as the "Cups King” of Northern Rivers racing paid tribute to his father, former leading rider Bryan Watkins, who takes great pleasure in his son's career.



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