The Christmas Stakes at Caulfield is a race trainer Henry Dwyer will always remember fondly.
On one of his first trips to the races as a youngster, the eventual Group One-winning trainer backed the trifecta of the Listed race.
Eighteen years on and Monday’s victory by Lucky Liberty has given Dwyer one of his greatest thrills in racing.
Ridden by Michelle Payne, Lucky Liberty ($5.50) scored by 1-1/4 lengths from Grande Rosso ($7.50) with Smart Dart ($19) a length away third.
“This is just about the biggest thrill I’ve had on a race track,” Dwyer said.
“I’ve had a Group One win but to get this horse back to win a race like this is a great thrill.
“The Christmas Stakes is one of the first race meetings I came to when I was younger.
“I got the trifecta in this race which set me on my path to training and punting.”
Lucky Liberty won his first three starts before buck-jumping when the saddle slipped at his fourth start. He then suffered a knee chip when down the track in the 2015 Australian Guineas.
After recovering from that, Lucky Liberty was diagnosed with a stress fracture to the off-fore shoulder and needed more time on the sidelines.
he has also had to battle feet problems throughout his career.
“He’s just a really brave horse that has belied his problems,” Dwyer said.
“He’s never sound but fights through the pain barrier.”
Dwyer said Lucky Liberty would now be spelled before a campaign start in April for a rich VOBIS Gold race at Caulfield before heading north for the Brisbane carnival.
Payne said it was a great thrill to win the Christmas Stakes which came on the 20th anniversary of her elder brother Andrew and brother-in-law Michael Patton being involved in a bizarre incident.
Patton, riding Cogitate dipped and came off on the turn of the 1996 Christmas Stakes causing interference to Andrew Payne’s mount Hon Kwok Star.
Payne was dislodged but managed to avoid falling, ending up on his brother-in-law’s horse.
“It’s 20 years ago that Andrew switched horses so it’s great to come out here and win the race,” Michelle Payne said.