Jockey Craig ‘Froggy’ Newitt has ridden winners all over the world but has rarely been more emotional than after Wednesday’s Devonport Cup triumph on Eastender.
“I hold this race dear to my heart,” Newitt said after the Barry Campbell-trained Eastender stormed home from near-last to beat Speed Force and dead-heaters Settler’s Stone and Kanji.
“The day I won it for the first time in 2002 was the day that Lee Freedman rang up to offer me the chance to go to Melbourne.
“So, it was actually the race that kick-started my career.
“I’ve now won it five times and I’ll keep coming back until I break Max Baker’s record (of six wins).”
Newitt, 33, gave an emotional post-race speech in which he thanked partner Breaana Smith for being his “rock” during a difficult period in his life and dedicated the win to his four sons.
“It’s a good feeling to win it, especially for Barry Campbell and his wife Anne who do a wonderful job with all their horses,” he said.
“And, also for Denise Martin and her Star Thoroughbreds syndicate because I ride the majority of their horses.”
Campbell said that Eastender was a better horse now than when he finished just behind the placegetters in last year’s Hobart and Launceston Cups and he would chase those races again.
“If he runs up to expectations, we’ll also go to the Adelaide Cup,” the trainer said.
Campbell, who won his only previous Devonport Cup with Dream Quest (also ridden by Newitt) in 2003 said Eastender could not have won his home-town cup 12 months ago.
“He didn’t know how to sprint back then – he was just a dour stayer,” the trainer said.
“But he’s got better with age.
“He actually sprinted past them today and that’s the reason he had only one lead-up run – so that I could keep him fresh.”
Former Devonport apprentice Raquel Clark rode a copybook race on runner-up Speed Force but the winner was too good and beat him by 1-¼ lengths.
It was a further two lengths back to Settler’s Stone who overcame a tough run and Kanji who box-seated behind the leaders