KEMBLA Grange trainer Paul Murray completed a memorable Cup double on Monday when four-year-old Fair Nation stormed home to take out the Moruya Cup.
Jockey Jeff Penza had the gelding in a perfect position at the turn and timed his charge perfectly up the straight to win the $27,000 feature race by one-and-a-half lengths.
The victory was enough for Penza to claim his fourth Moruya Cup crown in five years – that on top of his four wins in the Narooma Cup.
Murray, who took out the Narooma Cup with Fair Nation at the same track two weeks ago, suggested Monday’s win was a little harder to achieve.
“It’s hard to come back in a fortnight, step up 300 metres and three kilos in weight, but he had a lovely run, a good barrier and a fantastic ride,” he said.
“There was a bit of speed in the race, which helped him and he really finished off strong.
“I always said he’d get the journey but (owner) Michelle (Ritchie) was doubtful.
“But he showed his true colours today.”
Penza put on another flawless display in the saddle in front of a healthy 2000-strong crowd, and the star hoop drew nothing but praise from the winning trainer, who said “he’s a credit to the country and provincial racing, and he should get more opportunities in town”.
Murray revealed after the race that he wasn’t even meant to be in Moruya on Monday, although he was glad he changed his plans.
“I was fairly confident, but I didn’t think I’d even be here today as I was meant to be in town buying horses,” he said with a smile.
“But I left Dad up there to do that.”
The Cup double was perhaps all the more remarkable as Fair Nation cost Ritchie and Murray just $1500 – something that Murray said made the success all the more special.
“Owners can get horses that don’t cost them too much and you get a big thrill,” he said.
“That’s what racing is about – get some cheap horses and if they can win a couple of races, then it just goes on from there to bigger and better things.”