Canberra trainer Matthew Dale can lay claim to being king of the Snake Gully Cup after Lebrechaun provided him with his third win in the race at Gundagai on Friday.
A top ride from Canberra apprentice Taylor Lovelock-Wiggins had Lebrechaun storm past favourite Capital Commander halfway down the straight to claim the $55,000 Snake Gully Cup (1400 metres).
Capital Commander ($2.40) led the field but was constantly pressured and fought on to split Dale's duo. Lebrechaun ($8.50) claimed the victory while stablemate Happy Finish ($10.70), owned by the same connections, ran a huge race to finish third.
Dale has started horses in the cup four times, and Lebrechaun's success added to those of Gunfire Messiah in 2006 and Happy Finish in 2009.
Dale said there was something special about the Snake Gully Cup that always made the race a priority for him. ''These country races are the heart and soul of the game,'' he said. ''You win races in town and you just don't get the same feel as winning these sort of races.
''Races like the Wagga Town Plate and the Snake Gully Cup are the heart and soul of our area.
''We target the race every year and if I have the right horse, I like to try and have a crack at it. I've been lucky enough to win it three times now … hopefully I can keep going.''
Lebrechaun finished third in last year's Snake Gully Cup.
The seven-year-old gelding raced over 1600m at Randwick last start and beat only one runner home, prompting jockey Darren Gauci to give Dale some advice, which he ignored, instead targeting the 1400m cup a month ago.
''Last start over 1600 metres he was under the whip a long way out and he only just whacked away to the line and Darren Gauci got off and told me he wants 2400 metres,'' Dale said.
''I said I was going to give him a couple of days in the paddock, freshen him up, put the blinkers on and go to the Snake Gully Cup.
''They thought I was mad but I thought it would work.''
Lebrechaun sat off a fast tempo and burst through at the top of the straight to score by half a length. There was a neck between Capital Commander and Happy Finish.
The race had just nine starters after four scratchings. Best As Zariz broke down and failed to finish.