A weaving run from near last on the home turn by enigmatic mare Maria Farina (Contributer x La Vitesse) to claim the Listed Jennian Homes Wellington Lightning Handicap (1200m), provided the Weatherley family with a stunning stakes double on a day of high drama for their small team.
Earlier on the card they had taken out the Listed Barneswood Farm New Zealand St Leger (2600m) with progressive stayer Ess Vee Are, however the rugged four-year-old put himself squarely in the naughty corner after he lashed out suddenly in the birdcage after the race to send family patriarch Darryn to hospital with a suspected broken leg.
That left daughter and co-trainer Briar in charge of the rest of their small team entered at Trentham on the day, where she produced Maria Farina to upset hot favourite Shamus courtesy of a sensational ride by brother Sam.
Best saved for the last run, Maria Farina dropped out to the rear in the early stages and was faced by a wall of horses entering the run home.
Weatherley didn’t panic as he searched for a gap between runners before angling the five-year-old Contributer mare one off the fence inside the final furlong.
Just as Shamus was being hailed the winner, Maria Farina scorched through on his inside to deny him in the final stride and claim her fifth and most important career victory.
An emotional Briar Weatherley admitted she had a tough time coping with the stress of the occasion in the aftermath of her father’s accident.
“It is pretty emotional this one,” she said fighting back the tears.
“I’ve had a lot of time for this horse and knew she would get a big win one day and with Dad getting kicked earlier I have been on my own and a bit stressed.
“I’ve just had so many people help me, so I can’t thank them enough and I’m just so thrilled.
“Sam rode her perfectly as last start he dropped his stick when she burst clear and that probably cost her.
“She is a bit of a bludger at the best of times, so today he was just patient, patient and it was a ten out of ten ride.”
Briar acknowledged she knew the mare had the ability to win a stakes race and her brother agreed with that sentiment.
“This is just so special as she has always promised this,” Sam Weatherley said.
“People probably wondered why we were running her in these races, but she is such a difficult horse to ride.
“Thankfully it worked out today and this means such a lot to us and to Dad who is laid up in hospital.
“She is a half to a Group One winner (Pier) and this now means she is worth something and I’m so happy for the family.
“I think this horse is a Group One horse but given the way you have to ride her, it only works out one in every ten, so it is very special.”
Maria Farina was bred by Darryn and Lou Weatherley along with close family friend Barry Wright and is out of the Darci Brahma mare La Vitesse, who is also the dam of their Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) winner Pier.
Maria Farina has won five of her 19 starts and over $146,000. – NZ Racing Desk