Jockey Kerrin McEvoy rides Gracie Belle (left) to victory in race 3, the Newhaven Park Country Championships, during The Championships Day 1, at Royal Randwick Racecourse in Sydney, Saturday, April 4, 2020. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Jockey Kerrin McEvoy rides Gracie Belle (left) to victory in race 3, the Newhaven Park Country Championships, during The Championships Day 1, at Royal Randwick Racecourse in Sydney, Saturday, April 4, 2020. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY DAN HIMBRECHTS

Belle of the country ball claims win at Royal Randwick

RACING: Murwillumbah trainer Matthew Dunn never had any doubts about the attitude of his horse Gracie Belle.

It hung on for dear life for the country championships qualifier at Grafton in February, forcing its way into second place and a shot at the title.

On Saturday come championship day at Royal Randwick, the effort was no different, but the result was one better.

The four-year-old mare found a run on the extreme inside of the track and beat out Al Mah Haha and Grafton winner Plonka in a nailbiting finish.

"She tries really hard, it's like a human athlete, it's 80 per cent the athlete and 20 per cent the attitude," Dunn said.

"And she's got the right attitude."

Dunn was unable to watch the horse run on track due to the current coronavirus restrictions, with his wife Keira on track to take the trophy.

Moving just before the start, Gracie Belle missed the jump, with Dunn saying that wasn't a problem as he wanted her to be back in the field.

"She's got a bit of a tendency to over-race if she's ridden forward, and she's probably not a 1400m runner," he said.

What concerned him was that the horse was trapped hard against the rail, and might not get the opportunity to show her lightning finishing speed.

"I knew she'd finish strong, but I was concerned - the inside of the track probably wasn't the place to be going on the earlier races," he said.

"But Keiran McEvoy is a champion jockey, he put her in the right spot, and I think the stars aligned for us.

"I'm sure if you ran the race a few times maybe we don't get it, but we did, and we won.

"The luck has to go your way sometimes."

Dunn had previously won the Grafton qualifier three years in a row for no success in the big race.

"We've won with horses we thought would be able to win for the past three years, but they bumped into wet tracks and all three of them couldn't handle it," he said.

"It's pretty cool to get one that handles a soft track."

Mr Dunn said the win was special in the current racing climate for him and his owners.

"It's pretty special, things are tough, especially being so close to the border in Queensland - we can't race our horses in a lot of the places we usually do," he said.

"But our owners have been very patient and this is a great reward.

"It's a pretty big thing."