Hawkesbury trainer Joe Khalifeh introduced a pony to ease Amy Ekcels ' travel jitters – and it has worked.
The four-year-old mare, the only horse Khalifeh has in work, won her first New South Wales race at Cowra today.
And given the fact that the transfer of the meeting which was initially scheduled for Bathurst last Sunday along with a sizeable distance reduction could not stop her, is a pointer to another victory being on the cards.
Grant Buckley's rails-hugging ride got Amy Ekcels ($16) home in the Class 1/Maiden Plate (1700m), downing the fancied pair Vanilla Sky ($2.15 favorite) and Alloway ($2.70).
"Amy Ekcels was playing up in the float on the way to the track, and pawing the floor on the way home," Khalifeh, who also races the mare, explained this evening.
"So I decided to take a little pony with her to the races at her previous start at Bathurst on Anzac Day.
"The pony is also stabled beside her at the races, and Amy Ekcels is definitely a lot more settled.
"I'm sure that showed in her performance today.
"She was going to run at Bathurst when the race was programmed at 2000m, so she did a good job to win at the shorter distance.
"This is the first decent preparation I have had with Amy Ekcels, and she is maturing.
"Hopefully, now that she has broken through for me, she can go on with it."
A daughter of the American-bred stallion Ekraar and Danewin mare Ghemashah (who was exported to New Zealand in 2007), Amy Ekcels began her career in Queensland.
Her only previous win was in a Gold Coast Maiden (1800m) on August 1, 2020.
Amy Ekcels joined Khalifeh last year, and he spelled her after her first run for him when unplaced over 1400m at Kembla Grange exactly 12 months after that breakthrough success.
It has been a good 2021-22 for the trainer, who has only two horses. He won two races earlier this season with Camp David (both at Queanbeyan last November and December), who is spelling and will go back into work in a fortnight.
"I'm happy looking after the two I've got, but I would also be happy to take another horse if an outside owner offered it to me," Khalifeh said.
. Hawkesbury has an additional race meeting, with the scheduled Newcastle card on May 24 transferred.
As a result, barrier trials scheduled for Hawkesbury the previous day have been moved back a week to May 30.