BY NICK GUTHRIE | Daily Liberal 31 December 2023

When the Boxing Day Test match between Australia and Pakistan finished a day early, many were left wondering what to do with themselves on Saturday.

Not famed commentator Kerry O'Keeffe.

The fan favourite jumped on a plane back to Sydney so he could get to Randwick and watch Gallant Star, a Dubbo-trained horse he owns alongside David Ringland, contest a $120,000 Highway Handicap.

The trip was worth it as the rising star of the Brett Robb stables produced an almighty run to claim victory and stamp himself the one to beat in the 2024 Country Championships Western District Qualifier.

"This is the only one I've got," O'Keeffe said post-race.

"We bought it online with my friend David Ringland from Dubbo, we've got a great trainer in Brett Robb and it's just one of the great moments.

"To win a race at Randwick on a Saturday is just awesome and with a country horse too.

"I just watched Pat Cummins win for Australia yesterday and Gallant Star for me today."

O'Keeffe played 24 Tests for Australia in the 1970s but has developed cult status as a commentator due to his humorous tales, distinctive laugh, and shrewd tactical awareness of the game.

His horse Gallant Star burst onto the scene midway through 2022 when it won the Silver Goblet two-year-old feature at Dubbo on debut.

Another win at home and then a third in a two-year-old event at the scene of Saturday's win only further enhanced the Zoustar x Miss Valor gelding.

It hasn't all been smooth sailing in the time since but Gallant Star, now a four-year-old, has three wins from seven starts and has never finished outside the top three.

"We've always thought he was a very good horse and a horse that could win a Highway," Robb said.

"We had a few setbacks early on but it's good to get the job done."

Gallant Star sat deep in the field for most of Saturday's trip but under a fine ride from Sam Clipperton stormed home down the outside in the straight and stole victory from Mark Jones' Mudgee galloper Life's A Party (Jason Collett, $14) and Sir Ming (Danny Beasley, $14).

Robb won the $500,000 Country Championships Final in 2023 in an almighty boilover with Sizzle Minizzle and now Gallant Star has the same target.

The Dubbo trainer confirmed he has no concerns about stretching his gelding out to 1400m for the Championships, despite Saturday's 1200m being the furthest Gallant Star has run up to this point.

"It won't be any dramas," Robb said.

"That (Country Championships) will be his grand final now."

Robb is building a strong team for the Country Championships, with Sizzle Minizzle on track to defend his crown in 2024.