Soldier Of Love wins in roughhouse finish

Mandy Cottell
Soldier Of Love (right) has won an incident-packed Randwick race, beating Celestial Falls (left)

Bjorn Baker almost gave up on Soldier Of Love after an inglorious debut at Bathurst but happily for the trainer, the owners convinced him to persist.

The gelding has continued to go from strength to strength, landing his first Saturday-class win in a drama-packed Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service Handicap (1400m) at Randwick.

As favourite Subpoenaed was hopelessly blocked for a run and Soldier Of Love's stablemate Miss Einstein squeezed out of the finish, the winner enjoyed an unimpeded passage to the line.

"I didn't know whether to laugh or cry," Baker said.

"I was trying to watch it all and I still haven't quite taken it in, but it worked out really well.

"I took him to Bathurst for his first run and I think he ran a battling seventh. I said, 'I don't think I can continue with him' but they were keen to give him another prep and he's just continued to improve."

The win was Soldier Of Love's ($8) fifth from 14 starts and he showed determination to reel in Celestial Falls ($9.50) to score by a neck.

Miss Einstein ($7.50), who was trying to make a late charge between them when she was checked, was another 1-3/4 lengths away.

Her jockey Jason Collett fired in a minor protest against Tommy Berry on the runner-up but it was dismissed with stewards deeming the margin too great.

Baker is keen to see what level Soldier Of Love can reach this campaign and says the four-year-old is still on the way up.

"He has never stopped improving and until they do, you never quite know where you're going to get to," Baker said.

""He will get better over a little bit further too."

Winning jockey Rachel King echoed Baker's view that Soldier Of Love had yet to reach his ceiling.

"Last prep he was a really solid midweek horse and this time he has obviously stepped up to Saturday grade and there is no reason he won't keep working his way through the grades," King said.

All jockeys riding at Randwick sported black armbands in memory of legendary hoop Darby McCarthy who died earlier this week.