As the 2018 jumps season in South Australia comes to a close, there were a number of highlights and landmarks for SA-trained horses and the state’s major jumping races that are worth looking at again.
The Von Doussa Steeplechase at Oakbank was for the first time in living memory run outside of the Easter Racing Carnival, a decision that certainly impacted on the quality of the field, with 10 of the best chasers in Australia lining up at the iconic Adelaide Hills track. Seasoned observers remarked that this was the best field for many years and the race itself didn’t disappoint, with Patrick Payne’s Zed Em (ridden by Steven Pateman) finishing strongly to win by 3 lengths.
The NZ-bred chaser then backed up to win the Great Eastern Steeplechase thirteen days later at the Easter Carnival (again with Pateman aboard), becoming the first horse since fellow Kiwi Toubouggie Nights in 2012 to win both the Von Doussa and the Great Eastern in the same year.
Another highlight of the 2018 season was undoubtedly Grant Young’s Tunes, who won the Over The Rainbow series with 42 points, just ahead of another reliably consistent hurdler Searaven (trained by Barry Brook) on 35 points. With three wins across the season, including a hugely popular victory in the Irish Hurdle at Morphettville on the last day of the jumps year, Tunes has shown himself to be one of the most versatile and durable horses in Australia, and his confident front-running jumping saw the 10-year-old also pick up two second places in what was a stellar season.
Grant Young further established his credentials as one of the best jumping trainers in Australia through the performances of his iron horse Spying On You. Named the Most Consistently Performed Horse at the AJRA Mosstrooper Awards in 2016 and winner of the Great Eastern Steeplechase in 2017, the 9-year-old started the 2018 season with a win over hurdles at Gawler in February, then ran 4th in the Great Eastern, 3rd in the Grand Annual, and was well in contention in the Australian Steeplechase when brought down with two to go. To cap off another remarkable year, Spying On You was only beaten in the last stride by Sea King in the Grand National Steeplechase at Ballarat in August in what was one of the most thrilling jumping races of the year.
Had Spying On You been able to hold on, it would have been a unique double for SA-trained chasers at the meeting, after Barry Brook’s Caroun with Shane Jackson aboard took out the BM120 Steeplechase earlier in the day.
Other highlights of 2018 included a maiden hurdle win for Exalted Kanga (another from the Grant Young stable), jumps racing returning to Naracoorte for the first time in many years, two hurdle races at Gawler featuring all SA-trained fields, and a 3rd place