THERE were nervous times for punters down the straight who got behind Steve Turnbull's favourite Navua Girl during Sunday's Lion Nathan Pace (2,260 metres) but the mare had enough in her to stay in front.
Navua Girl ($2.40 favourite, Amanda Turnbull) hit the lead in the run for home but was pushed all the way to the finish by Tony Hagney's Carinya Gold ($8.50, Greg Rue) who ended up only a head short of the upset.
Rocky Leigh ($19), under the guidance of trainer Paul Jenkins, put in the early work to get to the front of the field and would end up being a tricky customer for the favourite to reel in.
Navua Girl eventually found the death seat when an opportunity presented itself, putting Turnbull in a great position to pounce.
As the field made their way inside the final 600m Rocky Leigh had Navua Girl sitting not far away and Midnight Queen racing along the pegs.
Carinya Gold drew up alongside the outside of Navua Girl on the bend for home and the chasing pair started to bear down on the leader, while Midnight Queen couldn't stay in touch.
At the 200m it became a race of two when Navua Girl took the lead away from Rocky Leigh and Carinya Gold stuck close to the new front runner.
Navua Girl and Carinya Gold went stride for stride in the closing stages and Turnbull's mare hung on to win in a 2:01.1 mile rate.
Turnbull said it was nice to see the mare capitalise on an opportunity.
"She went around today a bit better than she's been going. She's had a lot of chances," she said.
"She hasn't even drawn good at all but hasn't really been going that good either. This is the grade that she's been racing in for a while but today she was lucky enough to get around them when they were racing a bit slower."
Rocky Leigh finished off gamely after the early work to finish third.