Phillips makes right Call at Bell to open up 2016 with a win
THE first race of the year was an agonisingly close finish for Nanango jockey Hannah Phillips.
Her only win came right at the end, in the sixth and final race on Saturday at Bell, where she crossed the line in front on Leila's Call.
"I was very glad because all day I was getting close (to winning)," Phillips said.
Phillips opened her account of podium finishes at Bell right at the start with a third place finish on Tin's Pocket.
She then followed it up with a second place finish and another two thirds.
"I had a really good day," Phillips said.
"I just wish I could carry that strike rate through the year."
In the stirrups of Leila's Call, Phillips said she always believed she could win on the five-year-old mare after coming close in 2015.
"She's always shown she could win a race one day," she said.
"We've been within a couple of lengths except in Toowoomba (where she finished last)."
In the final 1000m race, Leila's Call proved she had what it took to win after she finished first, beating second-placed Halpin by half a length.
Phillips said she had to work hard after Leila's Call ran an unfavoured line.
"I got caught a bit wide, then we straightened up and I asked more of her and to her credit she gave it," she said.
Leila's Call proved to be the most successful of Oakey trainer Bradley Hudson's stable at the Bell races. Hudson finished with four other third place finishes, three of which were ridden by Phillips.
In Phillips' second place finish she rode Lady Wivenhoe trained by Kumbia's James Curtain.
As the first time she has ridden the five-year-old bay mare, Phillips said she was a little apprehensive.
"I was really happy that that horse behaved," she said.
Having done trials and gallops on Lady Wivenhoe, Phillips said she knew how she ran.
With a tongue control, she was wary after an episode in Texas last year had Lady Wivenhoe dislodge the control to leave Phillips clinging on for life.
But Bell presented Phillips a different case after the tongue control remained in place.
Another quirk Phillips has found with Lady Wivenhoe is her tendency to hold back at the start. Lady Wivenhoe did precisely this at Bell and tried to play catch-up, although it was too little too late.
"It's tricky at Bell because you're turning pretty much all the time," Phillips said.
Lady Wivenhoe crossed the line second, two lengths behind Azusa.
Tough luck for Farrington's Miss Alexandra
IN THE final race of the day Blackbutt's Wayne Farrington entered six-year-old bay mare Miss Alexandra.
A little unwell in the build-up to the Bell races, Farrington admitted Miss Alexandra was not at her best but she still showed some potential.
"She was coming around the corner first but then just lost it," Farrington said.
After she fell back after her initial good start, Miss Alexandra struggled to find the extra gear needed to finish at the front.
Unlike her second place finish in Gympie last October, Farrington said Miss Alexandra struggled on the turf track.
"She didn't make much ground," he said.
In between the Gympie meet and Bell, Farrington said he was not able to work with the mare.
"She was crook, so she didn't get much work," he said.