A PLAN hatched six weeks ago came to fruition yesterday when Victorian stayer Fieldmaster won the $100,000 Devonport Cup.
Trainer Patrick Payne said he had first given the Devonport Cup some thought as a lead-in race to the Hobart and Launceston cups during the summer racing carnival.
``Fieldmaster seems to race better when he is away from home, and the Devonport Cup came across my mind,'' he said.
Having his first start since June, Fieldmaster ($5.90) showed his class to race clear in the straight and go on to beat locals Lightly Spiced ($9.70) and Jakorijim ($15.70).
For the second year in a row, Longford-trained The Cleaner started favourite, but he was under pressure 1000 metres from home and struggled into 10th place.
Fieldmaster was ridden by top Victorian jockey Steven Arnold, who had forced himself to diet and had given up several mounts at yesterday's Sandown meeting to ride at Spreyton Park for the first time.
Arnold is recognised as one of Australia's most talented jockeys, despite being one of the tallest at 172 centimetres.
The 38-year-old was riding at Spreyton Park for the first time and indicated his liking for the Tapeta synthetic surface.
``There is no kickback and it rides fairly,'' he said.
Arnold said he would like to stick with Fieldmaster through the rest of his Tasmanian campaign, although he was conscious that Payne's younger sister, Michelle, was waiting in the wings.
Michelle strapped Fieldmaster yesterday as she gets closer to a return to the saddle, after a fall in September.
Payne, a former champion jockey, now has 40 horses in work at his Plumpton property near Rockbank.
He prepares Fieldmaster for long-time friends Josh and Thec Xipell of Melbourne.
``I used to ride horses for the Xipells, and now I'm training for them and I have Baron Douro in at Flemington on Saturday,'' he said.
Payne, 37, rode in Tasmania several times and rates the 1992 Tasmanian Derby on Charleston Party as one of his biggest wins in the Apple Isle.
Fieldmaster is likely to run in the Summer Cup or the Jockey Club Cup, before the $225,000 Hobart Cup on February 10.
``He's a pretty good galloper on his day and, thanks to Michelle, who has been looking after him, he had settled in well and I'm hoping he will be competitive in the Hobart and Launceston cups,'' he said.
Although he hadn't raced since June, Payne had prepared the horse with four barrier trials, and he was confident of him racing well first up.
The Cleaner was the best-backed runner, firming from $2.80 to $2.70 and he carried significant bets of $2000 at $2.60 and $1000 at $2.70 and again at $2.80, but he let his supporters down with a lacklustre effort.
``I'm sure he will bounce back, particularly when he gets on grass tracks again,'' jockey Jason Maskiell said.