Byford trainer Ron Huston landed a massive and memorable wager and collected $45,000 for an outlay of $300 when little filly Benesari Lane, the rank outsider at $109, charged home to snatch a dramatic last-stride victory in the $150,000 WA Oaks at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Huston’s inspired bet at odds of 150/1 was the icing on the cake for the 42-year-old truck driver, who also shared the first prize of $96,000 with his partner Vicki Lea as well as collecting about another $15,000 with a range of $20 wagers at 100/1 odds over the previous six weeks.
Huston and Lea, who purchased Benesari Lane for $16,000 at the 2019 APG Perth yearling sale, went into the Oaks without high expectations after Benesari Lane drew out wide at barrier eight.
However, Huston retained hope because he was convinced that his filly was the best stayer in the 2536m classic for three-year-old fillies. All he wanted was a genuine pace and a masterly drive from Kim Prentice.
Prentice fulfilled his part of the deal with a superb exhibition in the sulky. After two false starts, Prentice restrained Benesari Lane from her wide draw and cleverly angled her across to the pegs in a twinkling of an eye, settling her in seventh position, with the $2.90 favourite Black Jack Baby setting the pace.
Black Jack Baby had to withstand challenges from Booraa, Royal Essence and Newsy, and Prentice was content to bide his time with Benesari Lane, who was seventh at the bell and in ninth place 450m from home before he was able to ease the filly off the inside with 320m to travel when Always An Angel ($4.80) had taken the lead after sustaining a strong three wide burst from well back in the field.
The up-tempo event had seen the first three quarters of the final mile go by in a fast 28.4sec., 29.5sec. and 29sec. Benesari Lane had avoided all of the hustle and bustle in the event, and she surged home with a spirited three-wide burst to get up and beat Always An Angel by a head, rating 1.57.8 after a moderate final 400m in 30.5sec.
The win was Benesari Lane’s fourth from 23 starts and boosted her earnings to $135,749. It gave Prentice his third success in the WA Oaks, after he prepared Onassis Legacy for her win in 2003 when the filly was driven by Craig Goldfinch, and he was in the sulky when the Noel Keiley-trained Dilingers Reign was successful in 2006.
Huston said that he had not determined any specific tactics for Friday night’s classic, saying: “I told Kim to just drive for luck, and the race was run perfectly and just the way we wanted. Everything worked out great.
“Turning for home when Benesari Lane was finishing strongly, I forgot all about my big bet. I was rapt that I was going to run in the first four, and on the line, I didn’t think she had got up to win.
“Kim has now driven the filly at her past three starts. He moved into the property next door to ours 12 months ago and he has been really good to me, knowing that Vicki and I work every day, and he’s always there to give us a hand.
“Benesari Lane is probably the hardest trying horse I’ve trained. She is probably not in the top hundred, ability-wise, but she is the greatest trier. Gary Hall won with her at Bunbury three starts ago and he said that he had never driven a horse who tries so hard. Gary had the first option to drive her in the Oaks, but he said that he was committed to Justin Prentice’s Always An Angel.”
Always An Angel was gallant in defeat, and she failed by only a couple of centimetres to give Justin Prentice his fourth WA Oaks winner after scoring with Major Reality (2015), rank outsider Our Major Mama (2018) and another outsider Has No Fear (2019).
“Benesari Lane is probably the toughest horse I have trained,” said Huston. “She has got no real high speed, but she can stay all day. She has the best heart rate of all the pacers I’ve trained, better than Jumbo Operator and Gee Jay Kay.
“The $300 bet at 150/1 is probably the biggest result I’ve ever had since Jumbo Operator won the Caduceus Club Classic in 2009, when I had a fair go that night. We named the filly after our favourite street in Bali, our favourite holiday destination where we have visited 30 to 40 times.”
Huston and Lea went to the 2019 yearling sale where Lea picked out the Mach Three-Terrifying filly bred by Ed Dewar.
“We were the underbidders for quite a few lots, and we were blow out of the water on most of them,” said Huston. “Benesari Lane was the fifth-last lot to be offered and we were able to buy her for $16,000.
“Four and five years ago we loved to watch Our Little General racing in Victoria. He was one of our favourite horses, and Benesari Lane was bred on similar lines to Our Little General. They are both by Mach Three out of a Western Terror mare.”
For the record, Our Little General has had 110 starts for 28 wins, 38 placings and $730,912 in stakes. He won the Group 1 Breeders Crown at Melton as a two and three-year-old, as well as winning the Group 1 Victoria Derby in February 2017. After winning 15 times in Victoria Our Little General travelled to America where he won another 13 races.
Benesari Lane is the first foal out of Terrifying, a mare who had 104 starts for 19 wins, 16 placings and $131,200. “Our Little General was only a little guy, and Benesari Lane is a lot like him, but she hasn’t got his ability or speed,” said Huston who started his career as a trainer in Kalgoorlie in September 2000 and took only four starts to record his initial success, when Beaudiene Butler scored in Kalgoorlie in September 2000.
Huston is no newcomer to big-race triumphs. He prepared Getaway Plan for Group 1 victories in the Sales Classic and the State Sires Series for two-year-old colts and geldings in 2012.
by Ken Casellas