THE Upper Hunter got a big slice of the action early at Newcastle's inaugural The Hunter race day with a maiden double for trainers Andrew Robinson and John Ramsey on Saturday.
Muswellbrook mentor Robinson took out the $75,000 1300m class 3 Highway Handicap with Trophies Galore before Scone horseman Ramsey claimed the $125,000 benchmark 78 handicap (1400m) for fillies and mares with Pinup Miss.
It was Robinson's first runner at a metropolitan meeting and Ramsey's maiden win at that level.
Under Maitland jockey Andrew Gibbons, Trophies Galore ($9.50) sat three wide but with a trail throughout from barrier 13 before finishing strongly to win by three-quarters of a length from the Jeremy Gask-trained Weather Channel.
The four-year-old mare, which carried 54 kilograms, had won four of 13 starts and was coming off a first-up victory at Muswellbrook.
"We were really happy when the weights came out, dropping six kilos, but when we saw barrier 16, we were devastated," Robinson said.
"But Gibbo had to ride her for luck and we got away with it, so we're absolutely rapt.
"She's got terrific form and she probably should have won a couple more but for bad barriers, but she's tough, she's genuine, and nothing bothers her.
"It's her first crack at a city race, and mine as well, so I'm thrilled, especially to have a bunch of owners like this."
Robinson has a team of six but said "I'm looking to expand, and after today, we might have a few more coming in.
"It's a massive thrill, it's a great day for The Hunter.
"Racing NSW, and Mr V'landys, he's done so much for us right across the state.
"Us country trainers, he's helped us immensely with prizemoney increases and things like that, so we're very lucky."
Ramsey, who tasted success at Flemington with long-shot Never Listen running second in the VRC Oaks this month, was celebrating in the next race when Pinup Miss, another four-year-old mare, came from well back under Robbie Dolan to nab Miss Redoble on the line.
Ramsey, who has 18 horses in work, was pleased to break his city duck closer to home at the history-making standalone meeting.
"It was good to get a winner today and it was my first metropolitan winner as well," Ramsey said.
He said Pinup Miss, formerly trained by Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, would target another fillies and mares race in town in two weeks.