Bel Thor keeps Wez Hunter's streak alive

Nov 09, 2013

By Michael Lynch, The Age

When battling trainer Robbie Laing won the Victoria Derby on the first day of the Flemington carnival he said that the million dollar pay day could not have come at a better time, given that perhaps only five per cent of trainers were not doing it hard.

Laing is a trainer with a well established track record: imagine how tough things can be for young men starting out, especially if they are not backed by a group of wealthy owners.

Wez Hunter, the Mornington based handler, falls into that category, so for him to have multiple winners during the biggest week of the year is something he could barely have dreamed of.

But when Bel Thor came home an easy two-and-a-quarter length winner of the Antler Luggage Handicap at Flemington on Saturday it took Hunter's record to two from two at headquarters for the week, a strike rate that even Chris Waller could only marvel at.

In fact, Hunter has had an extraordinary run in the past few weeks. Bel Thor (who scored for Ben Melham as a well supported $3.70 second favourite) was his fourth winner in a row following the 40-1 success of Smokin' Joey in a group three race at Flemington the previous Saturday and the two wins of Our Smokin Rock at Sale and Tatura on Friday November 8 and on Cox Plate Day, October 26.

It could have been even better had Bel Thor also managed to get up at the Valley that afternoon instead of being beaten in a photo finish by Hvasstan.

Given that Hunter has only five horses in training it is a tremendous performance.

"I couldn't time it any better, it's a huge thrill. Winning with this one is a bit different, we have had him since day dot. (Smokin') Joey we have only had a couple of weeks," Hunter said.

"We have had a good opinion of him (Bel Thor) from day dot, but he has raced out of his class a lot and he's raced really well all the way through, bar a couple of ordinary runs in South Australia.

"It's really hard. I have been training for three years. I worked with Tony Noonan for five years and before that managed a few jockeys and also used to drive Nash Rawiller to the races.

"Getting winners on big days is fantastic. Meredith (Tuckett), my girlfirend and I, do it all together. She rides them all, she's a great judge."

Photo: Greg Irvine