Ryan Balfour’s busy end to 2021 has continued in the New Year with a training double at Gawler on Saturday.

Balfour shares the lead in the Southern Australian Trainer’s Premiership with 28 wins, just five short of his total from the 2020-21 season.

Kungka Maru and Fighting McLaren continued their solid campaigns grabbing metropolitan success, with Balfour and top apprentice Jacob Opperman narrowly denied trebles when Tully’s Gold was run down by Montign in the final race on the card.

Jason Holder partnering Fighting McLaren, while SA’s leading young rider, Jacob Opperman was aboard Kungka Maru for Balfour. Opperman was also victorious aboard Great Leveller who made it three wins in succession for Morphettville trainer Jon O’Connor.

But the most impressive win of the day came early when the well-bred three-year-old I Am Bene scored smartly on debut for Strathalbyn horseman Andrew Clarken.

Winning rider Paul Gatt quick to identify the daughter of I Am Invincible out of above average mare Molto Bene as a potentially stakes-class filly.

“I’ve jumped her out a couple of times and she always gave me that lovely feel,’’ Gatt said.

“I was a little bit worried about the 1200m, but she was too good for them.

“She’s Stakes-class I think, hopefully they can get a bit of black type with her, and she’d be worth a bit being an I Am Invincible filly,’’ he said.

At Port Lincoln on Sunday Claudia Lions and Ryan Hurdle shared riding honours with a double.

Lions was successful with I Got Strings and Utah Joe early in the day, while Hurdle, who also had success at Gawler on Saturday, won with Alpha Raider for Heather Lehmann before combining with Diamonds Are later in the day.

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