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Sky Punch lands knockout blow on big stage

Murray Bridge trainer Michael Hickmott had an emphatic message for stable apprentice Jessica Eaton before the Leon Macdonald Stakes at Morphettville on Saturday.Hickmott, emerging as a highly-talented young mentor, told Eaton to forget about any other options she may have for the Listed race, previously known as the Penny Edition Stakes, and stay with Sky…

Murray Bridge trainer Michael Hickmott had an emphatic message for stable apprentice Jessica Eaton before the Leon Macdonald Stakes at Morphettville on Saturday.

Hickmott, emerging as a highly-talented young mentor, told Eaton to forget about any other options she may have for the Listed race, previously known as the Penny Edition Stakes, and stay with Sky Punch.

Resuming after a 17-week spell, the $41 hope for the 1400m challenge had impressed Hickmott with his work and he was confident despite the presence of quality opposition such as Dalasan.

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“He has been working so well this preparation,” Hickmott said. “His work on Tuesday was unbelievable and I told Jess this horse will go very, very close.”

Eaton had Sky Punch in front shortly after leaving the barrier and the six-year old gelding was never headed, holding off Morvada in the run to the line with odds-on favourite Dalasan third after having little luck from barrier one.

Hickmott said he was over the moon, describing the win as amazing, before having his celebrations cut short to face the stewards after Paul Gattt, riding Morvada, lodged a protest for alleged interference by the winner from the 300m to the winning post.

The protest was dismissed, much to the relief of Eaton.

“There were a few nervous moments with the protest, but I was comfortable with the margin we won by,” she said. “You are still nervous until the stewards say dismissed.

“This has been a massive effort by the team, especially winning first up, and to do if for my new boss (Hickmott), I’ve been so happy since I moved here.

“It is a little birthday treat for my partner (Victorian-based) James (Tzaferis). I’ve been lucky with the opportunities I’m getting and it is great to see the move paying off.”

Eaton moved to South Australia late in June seeking more opportunities and she has proved herself an asset in the saddle.

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Among her feature wins was a $100,000 two-year old event at Murray Bridge on Super Striker, trained by Macdonald and Andrew Gluyas.

Hickmott said Sky Punch had had more problems than “you can possibly imagine” and he praised the hard work of his team and farrier John Good.

“I’m just elated to win a race named after Mr Macdonald,” Hickmott said. “He is an idol, a mentor and an icon to so many of us young trainers in SA.

“To win a race named in his honour is a big privilege. I’m just so thrilled.”

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