Once again the Warrnambool May carnival delivered on its promise of drama and excitement. The first two days had plenty of both (Winning Post was being printed while day three was in progress).
Tuesday’s Brierly Steeple looked a good race on paper and it certainly lived up to the hype, with Bit of a Lad jumping well and giving me a very satisfying victory.
However, the race wasn’t over once we crossed the finish line. Gold Medals finished runner-up and his connections lodged a protest against us.
Opinions have been divided on the stewards’ decision to allow us to keep the race. Most of the jumps jockey fraternity believe it should have been dismissed.
The public, especially the ones who backed Gold Medals, were adamant it should have been upheld. Naturally, I believe the stewards made the right call. Yes, Bit of a Lad and Gold Medals came together on the turn leading to the final jump but that turn is very tight.
Gold Medals had plenty of time to run us down but his rider (Clayton Douglas) elected to go to the outside rail for the final 400m, while I went to the inside. Gold Medals had his chance and the stewards agreed.
The Galleywood Hurdle was a tricky watch for me. I was initially booked for Big Blue but unfortunately he was allocated 64kg, a weight I couldn’t make.
Instead I picked up the ride on the Eric Musgrove-trained Lucques. He worked home nicely for third but he is a few lengths off the best hurdlers over 3200m. However, I think he has a bright future over the fences. He’s a big, powerful galloper.
Big Blue won under an outstanding ride from John Allen. The horse provided Ciaron Maher and David Eustace with their first victory in a Galleywood.
The short-priced favourite, Self Sense, didn’t race with his normal gusto and faded into fourth place. Goodwood Zodiac found the rise in class beyond him and he dropped out to finish last.
I noticed a bit of criticism of Shane Jackson’s ride over the fact that he didn’t allow Goodwood Zodiac to get out to a big lead like he did when he won by 30 lengths on his jumps debut.
However, it should be noted that Jackson explained after the race he felt the horse felt flat. On top of that, Goodwood Zodiac beat a very weak field and on Wednesday he was up against the A-graders.
The Dunroe Steeple on Wednesday was a cracking race. This is only the second time it’s been run during the carnival and it was great to see a big field of 11.
My mount, Ascot Red, was nosed out by Pentomatic. We put in a few sticky jumps on top of the hill but still had our chance to win. Solar Coaster also ran a top race, finishing another nose away in third place.
Pentomatic is an old stager who made the most of his light weight (64kg) and a liking for the ’Bool. He now has a win and three placings from his four runs there.
He’ll get back up in the weights now. Looking ahead I think Ascot Red and Solar Coaster have brighter futures over the fences.
’Bad was good
Hurdle winner Darabad looks to have improved from last season. He settled much better and Robbie Laing has done a great job with him.
Darabad was ridden nicely by hard-working hoop Jarrod Lynch.
My mount, Double Bluff, made a bad mistake at the last obstacle and finished fifth of nine, but I didn’t think he was going well enough to win at the time anyway.
Fit — and fast
Hall of Fame trainer Gai Waterhouse has been a great supporter of the Warrnambool carnival over the past few years.
We always know her horses will be well prepared and very fit. Social Element on Tuesday was a perfect example.
I thought I was a chance to run him down on Hursley coming to the second-last but I couldn’t make any inroads into the margin. Hursley’s effort was excellent as he was flattened at the second jump and almost fell.
Both Social Element and Hursley beat the rest easily. They look to have bright futures.
Wrong move ...
It was frustrating when the fields for the maiden hurdles came out and three horses I wanted to ride all ended up in the same race.
I had initially agreed to ride Aloft, Big Bad Baz and Euroman and all three ended up in race three of the carnival.
I elected to go with Aloft, who had been very impressive in his trials.
Sadly, I made the wrong call as he wasn’t anything like the horse who had shown so much hurdling promise. He finished a distant fifth.
Euroman, who was my second choice, gave an impressive display of jumping and led all the way. He will continue to improve from the experience and has a nice future.
Big Bad Baz didn’t run up to expectations, finishing seventh.
The runner-up in that race, Super Haze, stuck to his task very well at his hurdling debut. He was only a length and a half away and looks promising.
I will be interested to see how third placegetter Harvard progresses. He looks more ’chaser than hurdler to my eye, but he certainly jumped well.