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By Graham Potter | Saturday, February 18, 2023

Going into a Class 6 Handicap over 1600m at Eagle Farm on February 18, the Robert Heathcote trained Stuttering had not won a race since July 18, 2020 ... and Mark Du Plessis, the gelding’s rider on the day had not ridden in a race since picking up an injury on December 24, 2022.

That is nineteen months away from the winner’s enclosure for the horse and just under two months out of the saddle for the jockey ... which, in theory, at face value at least, would hardly rate as an attractive betting proposition.

But the bookmakers were not about to be caught out with Stuttering being marked up as the $3.70 third favourite behind the Tony Gollan trained duo, Love Sensation ($2.50) and Rock Amore ($3.40), this, in spite of the fact that, while his previous three runs this prep were not that bad, albeit all when beaten out of the placings at long odds, there was little to suggest a spirited improvement was to come fourth-up.

But the race was to prove otherwise.

Du Plessis took Stuttering into an immediate lead and he had Rock Amore trailing him in second spot as Stuttering took the field down the back stretch, with the favourite Love Sensation stalking the leading pair in third place.

Stuttering’s lead over Rock Amore was down to just a length approaching the home turn, with Love Sensation also getting closer and, when Du Plessis shifted Stuttering out wider on the track to the perceived better going, the Gollan trained pair went with him ... with Rock Amore, in particular looming as a major threat.

In fact, halfway up the straight it looked like both Rock Amore and Love Sensation were quickening well enough to go right past Stuttering ... but, just when they ranged up alongside the Heathcote runner to effectively form a line of three runners across the track, Stuttering, on whom Du Plessis might have been playing a cat-and-mouse game, suddenly found an extra gear and opened up again to lead by a length, an advantage he held all the way to the line in spite of being pressured by a wall of runners who, in the end, were only separated by a head margin from second to fourth place.

It was a daring, ‘nerves of steel’ ride and Stuttering came to the party right on cue when it mattered most in what was a great result, both in terms of rewarded the patience of Stuttering’s connections as well as giving the returning rider Mark Du Plessis the huge confidence boost of bringing home a winner in his first ride back from injury.

“The win did give me a lot of pleasure,” admitted Du Plessis. “It made me quite emotional, actually. I didn’t expect it until I started talking and it sort of all came out.

“I guess it was because the horse has been good to me, so have the owners and so has Rob (Heathcote). We have had our differences before, but it always sorts itself out in this game.

“I knew he had a chance. I thought I was getting on him at the right time. He had no luck in his two starts before and he was going up in distance in a race that he always looked like he was going to dictate. It just worked out perfect.

‘He was always travelling well. It was up to him the last furlong if he was good enough ... and he was.”

“Let me say, thank you Mark,” said trainer Robert Heathcote post-race. “It was a lovely ride. We talked pre-race. I said, you will probably lead but don’t fight for the lead. I said, you sit on him and wait until they range alongside. Be patient, because he will fight, and that’s exactly what he did!”

For all of that long time between drinks, Stuttering can boast a proud record of six wins and twelve placed from thirty-three starts with a very handsome $582 850 earned in prize-money.

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Photos: Graham Potter</b.
Photos: Graham Potter
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