CANBERRA sprinter Unanimously became the first horse in almost 40 years to go back-to-back in the $85,000 Wagga Town Plate (1200 metres) yesterday.
Top Sydney jockey Blake Shinn produced a cool, calm and collected ride from one of the outside gates and Unanimously did the rest as he raced to a dominant two-length victory.
Unanimously ($2.50) sat outside the leader Grey Drama — and Shinn barely moved a muscle on the top weight until well into the straight when he left his rivals for dead.
Grey Drama ($41) battled on gallantly for second, while the connections of Wagga sprinter Living On A Prayer ($7.50) were left to wonder what may have been after he recovered from missing the start to run third.
No horse has won consecutive Town Plates since Prince Morgan in 1974 and 1975.
Canberra trainer Matthew Dale has a great passion for the Wagga Gold Cup carnival and was thrilled to take out the race again with his stable star Unanimously.
“It’s great, it’s an honour really,” Dale said.
“I’ve been coming to Wagga for 12 years now since I started training and it’s the main carnival that I love, that I enjoy getting down to and aim up at.
“To win it two years in a row with a horse that’s been quite special to the stable means a great deal.
“We bought him as a yearling, he won his first start as a two-year-old and he’s had quite a lot of foot problems the last couple of years.
“We appear to be on top of those now and that’s reflected in his three runs back — he’s going as good as ever.”
It was Dale’s third Plate win in his 12-year training career after Little Shrek won the race in 2006.
“If we’ve got a good sprinter that is eligible we definitely want to win the race,” Dale said.
“It’s been a great race obviously for this horse, two runs for two wins, he won nicely last year and he won very well again this year.
“It’s a pleasure to win it and hopefully we can have a crack at the Cup tomorrow.”
Unanimously was well-backed on and off course and started the $2.50 favourite.
“On form he had the class edge,” Dale said.
“He had to carry the top weight but he carried it well and Blake took the question marks out of the race, he kept him balanced, kept him breathing and won accordingly.”
Stewards delayed the declaration of correct weight for a moment after the race to check footage of the start after three horses were slowly away but gave the all-clear soon afterwards.
The Brian Cox-trained Chinzia ($31) was close-up in fourth, while Taxmeifyoucan ($3.80) battled well for fifth after racing wide.
It was a disappointing result for connections of Brisbane sprinter Cum Dividend ($7), who bled for the first time and copped a three-month ban from racing.