It's been nearly a decade since Cobbitty driver and Bathurst native Luke McCarthy last appeared on the Dubbo Paceway.
In 2011, the driver was guiding Our Sixpence through the tail end of a five race unbeaten streak, capping the effort off with a sensational, dominant win at that year's Red Ochre Mares Classic, a victory that McCarthy still remembers fondly years later.
...you've got to chase the best races and when your horses are going good, you've got to have a crack.Luke McCarthy
"I haven't been out here for a few years, I drove a mare called Our Sixpence that won this race years ago and that's the only time I've driven here, but it was a really good night," McCarthy said.
In that race, McCarthy jostled for first place on the final turn, before easily taking a commanding lead along the straight and leaving his rivals lagging behind.
The result on Sunday, in McCarthy's first tilt back at Dubbo in eight years, was almost identical.
"Now especially with the conditions changing to make this an open mare's race we just thought this mare's been flying and it would be a good opportunity to win and it worked out well for us."
This time it was Bettor Enforce NZ ($1.50) who McCarthy guided to victory in the Red Ochre Classic's newly upgraded final, securing one of the most lucrative wins recorded at the Dubbo track.
McCarthy faced stiff competition early from the game Amanda Turnbull and fellow New Zealand horse RNR Windamere ($9.50), but the Turnbull driven horse faded fast and left Bettor Enforce to jostle with Rubies for Tash ($21), Takara Truffle ($16) and the prior Red Ochre winner Scarlet Babe ($13).
The battle for second place was decided twelve meters back from McCarthy, with the Bruce Harpley trained Rubies for Tash securing second place and the Guy Chapple driven Takara Truffle
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"I thought I'd end up outside at some stage, I just wasn't sure when she'd balance up and get around," McCarthy said.
"I'm not sure what happened with RNR Windamere, it must have choked down because I thought it would probably be one of the main ones to beat, and it was gone as soon as we got past the bell, but once I got past that, it was a pretty smooth run to the end."
The increase in prize money associated with the race's upgrade to a Group 2 feature means McCarthy and Bettor Enforce have won $26,250, more than the previous iteration of the race's total prize share.
Organisers David Wrigley and Len Edwards both took the time to thank all involved in the decision to upgrade the yearly fixture, but no one was more grateful than McCarthy, who knew that it could be a risk to make the trip to Dubbo and leave empty handed.
"It is worth it when you win and she's a really good mare," McCarthy said.
"[The prize money] is the name of the game, you've got to chase the best races and when your horses are going good, you've got to have a crack."
Bettor Enforce has now won three in a row with Luke McCarthy and four out of nine starts this season.