Racing really is the great leveller.
Following the highs of the Warrnambool May carnival, where I won the Grand Annual on Zed Em, this week has been tough.
On Tuesday morning I took one of my favourite horses, Aldous, for a trot and a canter. As usual he was a delight to be on.
We put him back in his box and went off to work some others at the beach.
When we returned Aldous seemed agitated and was kicking out at some tyres in his stall before dropping to the ground.
We rushed him off to the Werribee vet clinic and it was quickly established our boy was was experiencing a bad colic attack. They couldn’t save him.
His death flattened everyone around the stable. He wasn’t just an up-and-coming ’chaser. He was like a pet for us.
We still hadn’t seen the best of him either. He won a ’chase at Casterton last season and had been ticking along well for a return there this Sunday.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be.
I noticed with interest the results of a Winning Post online poll last week. The question was: “What’s the best schedule for Oakbank over Easter?”
The majority (68%) of respondents chose the traditional Saturday-Monday split.
I would have been with the 25 per cent who voted for a switch to Good Friday and Saturday. I think it might be the way to go.
The club could put on a good band on the Friday night after the races as an added encouragement to get people to stick around. They could run the restricted jumps races on Good Friday and the Great Eastern Steeple and Classic Hurdle on the Saturday.
The Australian Jumps Racing Association have had some fruitful discussions with the South Australian racing industry about the future of Oakbank. One idea raised was the possibility of the Von Doussa Steeple being run the Sunday before the Great Eastern. I believe a combination of that and the moving of the Easter Monday card to Good Friday would be a winner.
There are whispers about some healthy financial investment from a few businesses to help return the Oakbank carnival to the prominence it deserves. Let’s hope for the very best all round.
Jumps racing returns to Casterton on Sunday and track specialist Zataglio is the one to beat in the $75,000 steeplechase. Four times a winner at Casterton, Zataglio looks reasonably weighted with 70kg.
I rode him into the placings at Hamilton three starts back when he had 75kg. Since then he has raced a bit below his best in good company at Oakbank, finishing last of six and fourth of five. Back to this circuit he can improve sharply.
My stable will be represented in the race by Surging Wave. He is first up and will improve on whatever he does but is not without a chance.
He loves the Casterton jumps course. He won there in 2017 and has placed at his other two appearances.
Simon Ryan’s Police Camp is probably at his best on a heavy track, but he looks a danger. He stuck to his task okay running fourth in the Dunroe Steeple (3450m) at Warrnambool and should appreciate getting out to the longer (3800m) trip.
Big improver ...
In the open hurdle at Casterton I’m looking forward to the return to jumping of the Symon Wilde-trained Danzadoozie. He hasn’t raced over jumps since he finished fifth in a steeple at Coleraine in 2016. Earlier that season he had shown hurdling promise, winning twice. He’s looked okay in two recent hurdle trials and could be ready to run a big race.
In the maiden hurdle, I am riding My Four Oh Nine who has been in great form on the flat. He should run well. The Amy McDonald-trained Tara Dreaming has won his past two trials and looks our main danger.