Speedy Jax puts in a clean leap for Adam Roustaby on his way to victory. REG RYAN/RACING PHOTOS
Much as I love the Casterton venue for jumps racing, I was perplexed as to why Tuesday’s race meeting ended up there. It was supposed to be at Warrnambool but racing officials decided on a late switch.
I walked the track at Warrnambool on Monday morning and, yes, it was a heavy 9 on the course proper and a little bit heavier in patches on the steeplechase course. However, it is June. It is winter. It gets wet.
We had trials at Warrnambool on May 22, 13 days before Tuesday’s meeting, with the aim of getting those horses ready to race at the ’Bool.
Jumps trainers make their preparations under the assumption they are going to be racing at Warrnambool in June on what will likely be a heavy track.
Instead we got moved to Casterton, a completely different track in terms of size and conditions.
One of the reasons given for the switch was that it was too wet where we would have been landing at one of the jumps at Warrnambool. I would have simply removed that obstacle.
My frustration at the move from Warrnambool grew after the first race at Casterton. I was on the odds-on favourite, Michelin. He’s a talented jumper but he has a horrible habit of hanging out in his races. He’s much better suited to a heavy 10 (Casterton was a soft 7) and a bigger track like Warrnambool.
Michelin gave me an awful ride. He hung out badly on the home turn and then veered sharply to the right at the last hurdle and we crashed. The horse was okay and so was I, apart from being winded and developing a bad headache.
I then had to explain my ride to the stewards. They were concerned I was too negative on Michelin and conceded too great a start. I pointed out how badly the horse hung, how the saddle almost slipped on the turn and that despite all that we were still only three lengths away from the leader on the turn. We were close enough to win if he was good enough, but he fell.
While I was having my issues back in the field, the Robbie Laing-trained Jamieson finally put it all together in a race and broke through. He showed promise at the trials early in his career and has taken a while to get everything right.
Runner-up Comics, prepared by Kathryn Durden, looks to have a bright jumping future. It probably lies over the steeplechase fences but he has made a bright start to his career over obstacles.
Coyne gets the cash
The second maiden hurdle run at Casterton was a thrilling race with Mr Coyne narrowly holding off Joshua Reynolds.
This might turn out to be quite a good form race. Mr Coyne ran 3:53.43, significantly faster than Jamieson’s 4:00.28.
Mr Coyne’s starting price of $10 was seemingly generous. At his previous run over hurdles at Casterton he had finished a close second to the very capable Ascot Red.
Joshua Reynolds, meanwhile, made a bright start to his hurdling career. He started his career in England and looks a handy addition to the hurdling ranks.
My luck turned around in the third race, with the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained Euroman winning.
This was a good, competitive race with Will Gordon on Super Haze doing his best to keep me in a pocket a couple of times. He put me back in behind the leader heading out of the straight the second time and again coming off the back at the 400-metre mark. It was smart riding and it’s exactly what I would have done to him in the same situation.
I was on the hot favourite and as it turned out Euroman was too strong for Super Haze once I got out into the clear.
Weight wins out
The open steeplechase race only attracted three runners but it proved a competitive contest, with the lightly-weighted Speedy Jax making the most of a 9.5kg advantage over Dormello Mo.
Apprentice Adam Roustoby kept Speedy Jax in touch with Dormello Mo throughout and ran him down. I don’t want to be sounding critical of Will Gordon’s ride on Dormello Mo, but I wonder if he would have been better off turning it into a staying contest and making Speedy Jax chase him from a bit further out. We’ve seen Dormello Mo lead clearly and just keep rolling at Casterton previously.
Genius to the fore
The fifth and final jumps race at Casterton was a very competitive benchmark 120 steeple.
Here we witnessed a very good training performance from Terry and Karina O’Sullivan, with He’s a Genius jumping from 1800m to 3800m over obstacles third up and proving too strong.
Police Camp ran his usual honest race to finish second. He continues to find it hard to win.
Unabashed, a horse I train, did well to hang on for third. Through no fault of his rider (Tom Sadler) he was caught back and wide but stuck to his task nicely. Unabashed wants a heavy track, and a more spacious one.
Thriller in Adelaide
Morphettville hosted a great hurdle race last Saturday. Five of the six runners were in contention coming to the last jump.
My mount, Mister One Eleven, handled the final hurdle well but he just battled to the line to finish fourth. He’s had a bit of racing recently and is starting to get up in the weights. He carried 70kg.
Eric Musgrove prepared the quinella, with Beyond Thankful (62.5kg) and Tangara (61kg) making the most of their light weights to come down the centre of the track and fight out the finish.
Beyond Thankful’s win provided apprentice Nathan Newton with his first jumps victory. Nathan has a great attitude and let’s hope he can kick on after that breakthrough win.