Having needed more persuasion than most to go into the barriers, Special Reward has come out of them to travel like a winner for his first eastern states success.
Formerly trained in Perth, Special Reward is now with Kris Lees at Newcastle after being brought east by Australian Bloodstock.
His win in Saturday's Group Three Southern Cross Stakes (1400m) has set him up for a tilt at one of the features in his new home town, the Newcastle Newmarket.
As the field lined up at the 1200m-chute, Special Reward dug his heels on at the 1000m-mark and refused to move until two ponies belonging to the clerks of the course urged him to the gates.
Sent out the $3 favourite, Special Reward travelled on the pace and surged past Cascadian ($3.40) to win by a long neck.
Popular Victorian sprinter Jungle Edge drifted from $3.90 to $7 as the track improved from heavy to soft but ran his usual honest race for third, a length from the runner-up.
Special Reward, who won six of his 10 starts for Simon Miller in Perth, has had three starts for Lees for a sixth in November and a second last month.
"I gave him plenty of time after his first-up run and he got into the race well on the limit (53kg)." Lees said.
"He will go to the Newcastle Newmarket next (March 6).
Special Reward actually carried Avdulla's minimum of 54kg.
"He is a better grade than that but he just needs to put it all together," Avdulla said.
Lees, the premier trainer in the Hunter region, won the Group Three Newcastle Newmarket for the first time last year with Princess Posh.