JEROME Hunter has trained the biggest winner of his career as Barb Raider dug deep to narrowly win the $300,000 Group 2 Kewney Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on Saturday.
Hunter, who has been the private trainer for owners Graeme and Barbara Gathercole since 2012, has had stakes success with Warrior Of Fire (2015 Hobart Guineas) and Belwazi (2019 Kensington Stakes) in the last decade but his three-year-old fillies feats have continued to go to another level.
Barb Raider, who placed third in last year’s Group 1 Thousand Guineas, has returned unbeaten this preparation for Hunter having also won the Group 3 Vanity (1400m) at Flemington three weeks ago.
Adding to her record at headquarters, Barb Raider showed plenty of fight under the urgings of jockey Craig Williams to hold off the Anthony and Sam Freedman-trained Argentia to win Saturday’s Group 2 contest by half a head.
Mornington-based trainer Jerome Hunter did his best to contain his emotion following his biggest win to date.
“I was a bit emotional a couple of weeks ago (following the Vanity win) and I’m just trying to hold it back now. To get a homebred winner like this for [Graeme and Barbara Gathercole] is just fantastic,” Hunter said post-race.
Craig Williams, who has ridden the filly at each of her eight starts, has noticed continued improvement in Barb Raider’s attitude on raceday.
“She was quite raw [last prep] but she’s now quite mature. She’s handling things a whole lot better, and goes to the gates on her own,” Williams said.
“It’s just been a matter of process and the time that Jerome has decided to take with her, you can see the benefits of it now.
“He’s done a remarkable job with a really nice filly.”
Hunter said the $1million Group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m) in Sydney on April 9 is a possible option for the promising stayer.
“We’ll go home and have a think about it, but it is very enticing. I do know that she likes the wet as well, so looking at Sydney, it’d be nice,” he said.