Playboy leaves best until last

THE winning connections were unmistakeable among the crowd after Kempsey entrant Rodeo Playboy won the 2100m Cabcharge Ken Howard Cup at Coffs Harbour yesterday.

Quietly-spoken owner-trainer John Scott caste a John Wayne shadow in the mounting yard by sporting an enormous ten-gallon hat and other members of the stable and family crew were dressed with cowboy or western themes.

Paying $7.90 on the NSW TAB, it was the gelding's fourth win from 22 starts and a big drop in class from its last appearance on July 14 when finishing well back as an $81 chance in the Grafton Cup.

“It was a pretty fair run in the prelude and I thought he'd run okay today,” Scott said.

“We've had a lot of luck with him, the returns have been good and he's proven to be a real bargain.

“I reckon he doesn't cost us anymore than 14 bucks each week to feed and train him.”

Well-supported Long Journey Home was rated beautifully in front by jockey Jasen Watkins and with the easy run, managed to break up the field.

Given a breather down the side, Watkins clicked up nearing the corner to get all his competitors off the bit and still looked a likely winner after kicking clear in the straight.

Then the challengers began to emerge from the pack.

Castlemagne King was the first to arrive on the scene but winning jockey Matt Bennett was still biding his time on Rodeo Playboy which loomed up at the distance.

The gelding took the lead but Castlemagne King raised a final effort and Bennett had to use all his strength to reach the line in front.

The effort took an enormous toll on the rider who needed a few minutes leaning on the rail of the stall to catch his breath while unsaddling the winner.

“Getting close to home I could see the shadow over my shoulder when the other one fought back but we had done enough to win,” he said.

It brought up a double for the flame-haired jockey after he won the opening race on $31 roughie Hawilka for local trainer Trevor Hardy.

Despite big fields in every race yesterday, the course has not been marked and earned top marks from all trainers and jockeys.

Given time to settle overnight it should be close to its best Cup-day condition in many years.

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