But he rode his first Saturday metropolitan winner in months and started 2021 in the way he will hope to continue when he scored aboard Zac De Boss for the Ellerton-Zahra training partnership in the Vin Quirk Handicap at Caulfield on Saturday.

The three-year-old had won with Thornton in the saddle on his racetrack debut at Warrnambool a week before Christmas in a maiden.

On Saturday, he stepped up to restricted handicap company (a benchmark 64) and won well. The class might not have been great, but rarely do country maiden winners come straight to the city to win handicaps.

“He’s certainly on the up. Last prep he didn’t show much at all but this time he has come back a different horse. It’s amazing what a bit of time can do for some breeds that can take a little bit longer and want a bit of ground,” Thornton said.

“It makes your life easier [to be on a horse with potential]. I thought I was on the best horse in the race but he was probably the most immature out of all of them.”

Another horse to make the step straight out of maiden company and into handicap grade was Dickin Medal, who had broken his duck three weeks ago at the first time of asking at Geelong.

Partnered by Damien Oliver – unlike Thornton, a man synonymous with big race success – Dickin Medal finished hard to win a benchmark 70 handicap (Erin Coldham Handicap) later in the afternoon in Godolphin’s navy blue.

”He’s a promising horse. He won a maiden well the other day and I think it was a decent maiden. For a horse to come from a maiden to a 70, you don’t see that very often so he is a nice, promising horse.”

“He is still learning. He was on and off the bit at different stages. He was a bit relaxed and then he was a bit too keen so he is still learning to pace himself but I do like the horse and I think he has a nice future.”

Dean Holland is another rider who doesn’t get too many opportunities in town but he took his chance on outsider Classic WeiWei with both hands, getting up late to win the Jodie Burgess Handicap on the Tony McEvoy-trained gelding.

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