Shelton's hero scales the heights of The Kosciuszko
RACING: Like the great Kensei, Cuban Song and Takeover Target, John Shelton's Belflyer has etched its name into Grafton racing folklore.
The stoic seven-year-old sprinter refused to be denied as he fought through the wet at Royal Randwick to take out the inaugural $1.3 million The Kosciuszko (1200m).
It was the perfect fairytale for Sydney jockey Adam Hyeronimus, who took the historic ride for his former mentor trainer.
It has become the biggest win in the career of Grafton's Shelton, a career which spans more than five decades and includes a famed win in the 2000 Ramornie Handicap with Mother's Gift.
"It's really tremendous to win this," Shelton said. "I feel a little for Benny Looker because he is his normal rider, but he went elsewhere.
"It was the biggest thrill I will ever have.
The reigning Northern Rivers Racing Association Horse of the Year, Belflyer had been proudly spruiked for the race across NRRA clubs and local media.
Shelton praised Sky Racing's Gary Kleise, a former leading NRRA jockey, for his support in getting the bush champion a chance in the feature.
"I always knew this race was for him, he showed that in the Ramornie Handicap," Shelton said.
In a hark to the Clarence River Jockey Club's moniker as the Springboard to Fame, Belflyer finished second in the time-honoured Ramornie Handicap (1200m) to Havasay.
It was a run that had enticed slot holders Battlers Punters Club into securing the gelding for The Kosciuszko.
Club member Thad King was full of celebration following the impressive run, and said they had always believed in the Grafton battler, who started the race at $71 odds.
"We thought he could really come from behind if there was a bit of speed on, and we were keen on him from the outset, he's just proved us right," King said.
"This is just great for country racing, it is so great to be a part of it."
Hear from trainer John Shelton who was beside himself after Belflyer stuns a talented Kosciuszko field! pic.twitter.com/wlDyIsC4zj— Sky Racing (@SkyRacingAU) October 13, 2018
"Johnny Shelton, what a legend, what a trainer. Everyone is just so pumped right now, Hippo (Hyeronimus) was amazing.
After jumping clean from a wide barrier 11, Hyeronimus settled off the speed for most of the journey. But as the runners turned for home he produced Belflyer for a run over the top of the field.
The seven-year-old gelding by Bel Espirit cleared the field at the 200m mark before pushing on across the line to win by half-a-length from Suncraze (Melanie O'Gorman).
Jenny Graham's last minute call-up Awesome Pluck showed his merits to finish a close third behind Suncraze for jockey Tim Ryan.
Belflyer's regular jockey Ben Looker had taken the ride on race favourite Victorem, who struggled on the greasy surface and finished three-lengths off in fifth.