QUEENSLANDERS triumphed across ‘the ditch’ when Sister Havana won the Karaka Million at Ellerslie on Sunday for trainer Liam Birchley and jockey Stathi Katsidis.

The win was a consolation for Birchley who finished an unlucky second with Sarge In Charge in the two-year-old classic in New Zealand last year behind The Heckler.

Katsidis made good use of his nice draw and gave Sister Havana the perfect run on the fence before pushing through a gap inside the furlong and the daughter of General Nediym raced  away to win easily from Icepin and Banchee.

The win continued the Aussie invasion on feature races across the Tasman with the Sydney sprinter, Gold Trail, winning the Group 1 Railway Stakes for trainer Gary Portelli and jockey Michael Rodd earlier this month.

Sister Havana, a $40,000 purchase at the Karaka Sale, proved a real bargain buy after her win in the $NZ1 million feature. “She was probably a bit tiny compared to what I normally like to buy,” Birchley said. “But she’s a love type and I was surprised to get her for that money.”

Katsidis continued his meteoric rise after his career was derailed for some time. It followed his win earlier this month on the Gillian Heinrich-trained Military Rose in the $2 million Gold Coast Magic Millions Classic.

“I haven’t always had the dedication,” Katsidis admitted. “This is the first time in my life that I’ve really dedicated myself to riding. It’s a great thrill to win two big races so quickly.”

Sister Havana will head home to Queensland to spell and then be prepared by Birchley for the Winter Carnival two-year-old classics.

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