FIRST-starter Star Alibi, ridden by Muswellbrook apprentice Samantha Clenton, overcame a slow start to underline her ability by easily winning the Mrs Services Maiden (1280m) for Jason Deamer and a large syndicate of owners at Muswellbrook on Sunday.
"She is nothing to look at but she has a good motor," Deamer said.
"We have had a few problems with her, especially with her near side hock but the owners were patient and we always though she had some ability.
"Although she missed the start, Samantha was able to get her into a good spot and she hit the line well."
Star Alibi had one trial for a fifth at Wyong but punters knew she had ability and she started the $2.90 favourite.
However, the best-backed runner was C'est La Vie (Rachael Murray) backed in from $16 to start at $5.50.
She led to the turn but weakened to finish third.
THE David Atkins-trained Kulnura continued his love affair with Muswellbrook when he led all the way to prevail in the Vinery Stud Benchmark 66 (1500m) to give Samantha Clenton a winning double.
The victory took Kulnura's record at Skellatar Park to three wins from four starts.
He was having his third start from a spell to score his first win, which was also at Muswellbrook, since September last year.
"We got away with murder in front but his form here is good," Clenton said.
The issue was never in doubt with Kulnura ($5.50) winning by a length from the $2.90 favourite Weather Channel.
JAKE Hull earned praise from trainer Kristen Buchanan for his winning ride on Neruda in the Muswellbrook Cinema Class Two (1280m).
"I wanted Jake to give him plenty of galloping room in the straight and I don't know how he did it but he was able to get him to the outside," she said.
"It was the ride that won us the race."
Neruda jumped well from the inside barrier and Hull settled him in third place on the fence.
Nearing the turn, he eased away from the rail into clear galloping room, went to the lead in the straight then held off the fast finishing Trophies Galore, which came from last on the turn, to win by a length.
It was Neruda's first run since mid-April when he ran 10th at Newcastle.
"He is a funny horse and he got cranky so we gave him a freshen up," Buchanan said.
"The key is to keep him happy and if he is happy, he races well."
THE John Ramsey-trained Mapili is headed to the breeding barn at the end of this season but the trainer is hoping he can get another win out of the Snitzel filly before she is retired.
Mapili overcame a betting drift but still went out the $2.50 favourite, to grab the lead late and win the Muswellbrook Security Services Maiden (900m) in class record time.
"The plan was to win a race with her and then retire her but I will talk to the owners and see what they want to do," Ramsey said.
"I think she can win another race before going to the breeding barn."
Mapili (Robert Thompson) came from last at the 600m to overhaul Win The Flag late and was finishing the race off so quickly she won by three quarters of a length in 52.05 seconds.
WELL-travelled filly Yitai Synergy gave Peter Snowden, who trains the daughter of Dissident with his son Paul, another winner of the Greg Cribb Memorial Red Crown Two-Year-Old (900m), a race named in honour of his late brother-in-law.
The Snowden family have been long-time supporters of the Muswellbrook meeting which not only honours the late Greg Cribb but also his father, the late Shorty Cribb, Peter Snowden's father-in-law.
Yitai Synergy, the most experienced of the runners with four starts including a Kembla maiden win, was simply too classy and ran a class record 51.53 seconds.
Apprentice Cejay Graham took the classy-looking chestnut straight to the lead and she was never extended to win by three quarters of a length from the Paul Perry-trained Red Light Dancer (Jess Taylor).
Snowden said the decision to bring Yitai Synergy to Muswellbrook was all part of a campaign to teach her to race more tractably.
"She has plenty of ability but she wants to charge in her races," he said.
"We are trying to teach her to settle.
"She is a well-travelled filly and handles the travel well."
Yitai Synergy ran eighth in the Listed Dalrello at Eagle Farm in April before returning home to win at Kembla and run seventh at Randwick, beaten three lengths on a heavy track.