Irish eyes smiling

Southern Dancer (Alysha Collett) racing away to an easy win at Te Awamutu yesterday.

Southern Dancer (Alysha Collett) racing away to an easy win at Te Awamutu yesterday.

Irishman Finbarr Leahy had every reason to be smiling at Te Awamutu yesterday.

The former successful jumps jockey saddled up Southern Dancer to give him his first win for the season when taking the Te Awamutu Courier 2000.

Leahy has had just a couple of representatives this season with Southern Dancer starting four times and Mystery Man finishing a creditable fourth on debut at Te Rapa earlier this month.

Leahy has always had plenty of faith in Southern Dancer’s ability and was hoping a return to Te Awamutu and good footing could bring the desired result.

Southern Dancer had shed his maiden status 12 months earlier on the Te Awamutu course when streeting his rivals by seven lengths over 2000 metres on a Good 3 track.

He then posted his second win at Trentham over 2100 metres last January on a Dead4 track, but since then in six starts his best result had been a second on a heavy10 track at Tauranga last March.

With three lead-up runs under his belt of which the best placing was a sixth at Tauranga last month, Southern Dancer gave his rivals an example of his talent in no uncertain terms.

Rider Alysha Collett had him in fifth or sixth position on the inner for most of the way and pushed him forward with 500 metres to run to be up challenging for the lead turning for home.

After hitting the lead 200 metres out, he drew clear to win by three and a half lengths from The Chief (part-owned by top harness driver Tony Herlihy) with the Todd Mitchell-trained Varro two lengths away in third placing.

Buoyed by yesterday’s success, owner Mike and Suzie Rutz and Leahy can be confident of more bold performances from the five-year-old Tavistock gelding.