A nervous Heath Conners could barely watch as Villa Sarchi stood in the barriers for his race at Sandown.
But after 400m of Wednesday's Spicer Thoroughbreds Handicap (1000m) the Geelong-based horseman gradually edged his way towards the winner's enclosure.
By the time Villa Sarchi had passed the 200m mark, Conners was where the winner returns, waiting for connections and Villa Sarchi.
Ridden by Damien Thornton, Villa Sarchi was heavily supported from $4.40 to $3.10 before scoring by 1-1/4 lengths from Charlie Garcon ($5.50) with Fast Stryke ($16) a long neck away third.
A three-year-old and taking on older horses at benchmark 64 level, Conners is predicting better things from Villa Sarchi who was having his first run back from a spell.
The gelding finished third at Ballarat and Warrnambool at his first two starts before breaking through for his maiden success at Kyneton last November.
Conners spent a lot of time preparing Villa Sarchi to relax and settle behind runners.
After being one of the first to begin, Thornton dragged the gelding back to last before coming widest in the straight.
"The horse was doing a lot of things wrong, and still is now, but he's got so much natural ability," Conners said.
"He was still a bit of a handful early on and was still funny in the gates today, but when he puts it altogether he'll be a serious horse.
"After four runs now hopefully he can get it right, but it'll be one step at a time as mentally I don't want to put him over the top."
Thornton explained Villa Sarchi was a hard horse to ride with his antics early but has faith he'll progress to Saturday company.
He said there was a lot of merit in the win.
"We had them covered a fair way out but he gave me a really strong kick inside the last furlong which was really good to see," Thornton said.
"If he can relax early he'll be even better."
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