Home-town cup victory so sweet for trainer

WHEN progressive five-year-old The Producer powered home to win the Jim Osborne Longford Cup at the traditional New Year's Day meeting at Longford yesterday it capped arguably the most significant 24 hours in trainer John Blacker's racing career.

Blacker recently moved back to Tasmania after trying for two years to realise a dream of making it in Victoria.

He prepared his share of winners from his stables at Seymour but the yearning to return home  eventually won out.

At Mowbray on Tuesday night Blacker prepared the first three winners on the eight-event card and he prepared minor placegetters in two other races.

He was scheduled to saddle up four at the Longford meeting and began the day with a winner when the speedy Bonny's Legacy led all the way to win a fillies and mares maiden over 1400 metres.

While he was thrilled with the four-year-old mare's effort, all he could really focus on was the last race of the day - the Longford Cup.

In-form apprentice Georgie Catania guided Bonny's Legacy to victory and she also had the responsibility of partnering The Producer.

Blacker gave her clear instructions to have the flashy chestnut last of the field of five but in close enough proximity to the second-last horse when they reached the 600-metre peg of the 1800-metre race, and then get to the outside and let him rattle home.

It all looked to be going to plan until Catania had her charge still on the rails at the 400-metre mark and with a wall of horses in front of her turning for home.

But she also had a plan and it ended up being a master stroke.

When the leader, Hell Strong, shifted up the track a huge gap appeared and she drove The Producer through the gap. He powered home along the rails and went on to score comfortably from the David and Scott Brunton-trained stablemates Hell Strong and Lightly Spiced.

``Winning my home-town cup so soon after coming home is very special,'' Blacker said.

``This year's cup was named in honour of the late Jim Osborne, who was something of an institution in this town, and he also was one of my most loyal owners for many years before his death so winning this one is extremely satisfying,'' he said.

Blacker said The Producer has untapped ability and the Longford Cup win had convinced him to proceed with plans to run him next week in the $100,000 Devonport Cup.

``After he won a benchmark 78 race over 1400 metres in Hobart two weeks ago I targeted the Longford Cup but I also had it in the back of my mind to enter him for the Devonport Cup.''

``He produced the run I was looking for today to convince me to proceed with the Devonport Cup plan.''

The weights for next Wednesday's Devonport Cup will be released today but given The Producer's rating he should be on the minimum of weight.

``Of course I will have to wait and see how the horse pulls up after this run but if everything is good with the horse we will more than likely line up in the Devonport Cup,'' he said.

Blacker said he had been amazed at the amount of support he had received from the people who worked for him before he made the move interstate.

``I have had a lot of help from my family (daughter Laura, parents George and Marlene Blacker and brother Troy) as well as a lot of former staff members coming back to work for me. I have also been lucky in getting good track work riders.

``I wasn't sure how people would react to me coming back after being away [but] everyone has been great,'' he said.

John's younger brother, Troy,  also enjoyed a good day on his home track by preparing a double with wins by Bel Ombre in a benchmark 62 handicap over 1400 metres and Keukenhof that notched his third career win when he stormed home to take out a benchmark 62 handicap over 1800 metres.

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