STOWPORT firefighter Shirley Berger doused the flames of her more fancied rivals when she produced outsider Red Eagle to win yesterday's $100,000 Devonport Cup at Spreyton.
Turkish apprentice Bulent Muhcu took Red Eagle straight to the front, and the $18 chance led all the way to beat Gotta Dream ($14) and heavily backed $2.80 favourite Royal Rapture.
Berger is believed to be the first female to train a Devonport Cup winner.
She started training her own horses for a hobby about 18 month ago and bought Red Eagle off the internet after the gelding had been ``sacked'' by his previous owners in Victoria.
``He'd just won a race up the bush but they obviously didn't want him,'' Berger said.
``I liked him because he was by Delago Brom, the sire of another of my horses, Delago Delight.
``But he was a real handful when I got him and I schooled him in dressage to settle him down.
``He still does dressage a couple of days a week.''
Berger also rides Red Eagle up bush tracks, around a neighbour's paddock and at the beach to keep him fit.
``I think he's only been here (to Spreyton) to work on the track about three times,'' she said.
Red Eagle has developed an affinity with Muhcu, who has ridden the horse five times for two wins, two seconds and a third.
It was after a win in a much lower grade at Mowbray in mid-December that Muhcu suggested to Berger that Red Eagle would be worth a start in the Devonport Cup.
He is now suggesting that the five-year-old wouldn't be out of place in the Hobart or Launceston cups.
``I have been following this horse all the way through and I've got no doubts he could run 2400 metres,'' the jockey said.
It was his confidence in Red Eagle's staying ability that prompted Muhcu to go straight to the front in yesterday's 1880m race.
``I'm not normally a front-running jockey but I didn't think there was a lot of speed in the race and he's a very strong horse,'' Muhcu said.
``He got a soft lead so I knew he'd keep going.''
Muhcu, 26, is apprenticed to Broadmarsh trainer Brendan McShane but is on loan to Robert Smerdon at Caulfield.
He first came to Australia as a 14-year-old to attend jockey training school in Queensland.
About six years later, he returned to spend 10 months riding trackwork for leading Victorian trainer David Hayes.
Along the way he has ridden a handful of winners in Turkey and the US, but it wasn't until moving to Tasmania two years ago that he got serious about riding in races.
``Up until then I was happy just riding trackwork,'' he said.
With the winner leading all the way, there were no hard luck stories from the minor placegetters.
Sydney jockey Robert Thompson said that runner-up Gotta Dream ``tried hard but found the winner too good''.
Craig Newitt said that third placegetter Royal Rapture ``ran a great race but will be more seasoned in 12 months''.
Brendon McCoull said that fourth-placed Jakcorijim ``was travelling like the winner at the top of the straight but for some reason didn't run out the 1880m as well as usual.''