Not even a forced late riding change could stand in the way of Hawkesbury seven-year-old Zouologist returning to the winning list in the Benchmark 66 Handicap (1280m), providing co-trainers Phil and Tara Vigouroux with their sixth success of the season.
Apprentice Chelsea Hillier was booked for Zoulogist, but was injured and unable to take the mount, and Newcastle apprentice Camille Houlgatte replaced her.
It was a costly injury as Hillier also was to have ridden previous race winner Mangoola, and star apprentice Reece Jones picked up a lucky ride.
With Houlgatte claiming 3kg to lessen Zouologist's weight to 59.5kg, the gelding fought on tenaciously down the running to hold out Extra Flash ($7.50) and Dalgarno ($26).
It was his fourth win – but his record could be so much better as he has been placed 19 times (13 of them have been seconds) from 43 starts.
This was the 11th track Zouologist has raced on in the past 12 months. His virtual Statewide trek began at Wagga last February, and he subsequently started at Goulburn, Cowra, Albury, Muswellbrook, Tamworth, Forbes, Moruya, Taree, Wagga and Orange.
The gelding was placed in five of those races before striking winning form again today.
"Nothing went right for Zouologist at his previous campaign," Tara Vigouroux said this evening.
"He doesn't like heavy tracks, meetings were called off and with the gap between runs, we just couldn't get him into his rhythm.
"This time he has been more comfortable on top of the ground, and it was great to see him win again today.
"It's very rewarding to get these old horses back. He is a happy horse and very sound."
Zouologist is raced on lease from Bylong Park by a syndicate which includes Phil and Tara Vigouroux, and Tara's father, former Hawkesbury Race Club chairman and life member Ken Quigley.
However, two members of the syndicate decided to drop out after the gelding's last start second in a Class 3 Handicap (1400m) at Orange on January 15 – and Tara Vigouroux filled the breach.
"I'm sure we ran into a pretty smart horse (Sizzle Minizzle) that day, and gave him 2.5kg," Tara Vigouroux said.
. The day didn't end well for Team Vigouroux when stablemate Legris ($41) dislodged his rider Winona Costin soon after the start of the Maiden Plate (1280m).
Fortunately, the much-travelled and popular jockey escaped injury.