Just six months after returning to race riding, jockey Tahlia Hope was lifting the prized Avoca Cup.
The 22-year-old Hope, who spent time in hospital last year as she fought viral meningitis and had close to a year away from the track, partnered Patrick Payne-trained Portland Jimmy ($2.60 fav) to land the time-honoured feature on Saturday.
The former New Zealand horse was only having his third run since joining the Payne stable and showed his toughness with a gutsy success.
He was up on speed throughout the 1860m contest and while he received little peace, still shot clear at the top of the straight and held on to score by half-a-length over runner-up Tarquin. Not To Know, for Ballarat trainer Mitch Freedman, finished back in third.
Usually one of the big social events on the region's calendar, the general public was unable to attend the 2020 meeting. Only a small group of owners were allowed to be on course with participants and club staff.