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Gold strike in America? It’s worth a shot


Gold Medals low res
Gold Medals: a US tour would be exciting for Aussie jumps fans. PAT SCALA/RACING PHOTOS

Connections of Symon Wilde’s outstanding jumper Gold Medals are considering a trip to the US for feature races there at the end of our winter season.

One possible target would be the Grand National Hurdle at Far Hills in New Jersey. The race is run over 4200 metres in October with a prizemoney purse of around $A430,000.

Most of the horses jumping on the American scene are from England and Ireland, while most of the jockeys are Irish.

It would be fantastic if Gold Medals made the trip there. A classy Australian jumper on the international stage would be very exciting and I’m sure he’d do well.

However, it wouldn’t be a “walk in the park”. You only have to look at the recent history of the New Jersey Grand National Hurdle to see the quality of opposition Gold Medals would face.

Last year’s edition was won by the Gordon Elliott-trained Jury Duty. Elliott is one of the leading jumps trainers in Ireland. In 2016 the legendary Irish rider Ruby Walsh and won the race on Rawnaq. All the big guns have their sights on that New Jersey feature.

Winner has a lot to learn

We had 12 jumps trials at Ballarat last Friday and there was a lot of interest in the performance of the Patrick Payne-trained Michelin in heat three.

This horse created plenty of unwanted attention (for me) after he fell at the last obstacle as a $1.30 favourite at Casterton on June 4.

I found myself having to explain his performance in running not only to the stewards but to several keen jumping enthusiasts on Twitter.

Before his fall Michelin kept wanting to run out at each obstacle.

The good news is that he was more tractable in his trial but he still did a bit wrong. He won his heat but he is far from the finished product. Fortunately he’s in the right hands to continue his progression.

Predictable pattern

The first two heats at Ballarat were won by Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained gallopers.

In typical style for that stable, both Diamond Star Halo and Northern Voyage got out to big leads and simply kept rolling.

Big win, bad finish

One of the biggest trial winners on the day was the Jarrod McLean-trained Elvison, in heat seven. He won by 15 lengths.

Despite the dominant performance I was a bit concerned he didn’t handle the last two obstacles well. You certainly want your horse full of running and energy at the end of the race, not scrambling to get over the last couple.

Wells well

Ballarat hosted three steeplechase trials and one of the winners was the old champion Wells, winner of three Grand Nationals.

He looked like a prize fighter strutting around the mounting yard prior to his heat, and he won easily. Trainer Kathryn Durden has the old boy (he’s 11 now) in magnificent order.

The second steeplechase heat was taken out by On Kileys Run for Patrick Ryan junior.

He’s a lovely horse who has only been to the races twice. He found them too quick at his hurdling debut, finishing eighth of 10 during the Warrnambool May carnival.

Friday’s trial showed his future is likely to be over the bigger fences. He jumped well and looks a good long-term prospect.

The final heat was a healthy contest between Lucques, Danzadoozie and Truly High.

The winner, Lucques, scored three times over hurdles earlier this season before finding the class a bit beyond him when third in both the Galleywood Hurdle and Australian Hurdle.

The switch to the fences might be just what he needs now. He certainly trialled well enough.

Heavy disappointment

Wednesday this week was a frustrating day for jumps trainers, with the Strathalbyn meeting abandoned due to bad weather. A steeplechase and hurdle race were features on the card.

We are now in the middle of June and we still haven’t had a jumps race run on a heavy track this season. It’s disappointing when races on such surfaces are moved or abandoned.

A lot of trainers specifically buy potential jumpers that can handle wet ground. Maybe we all have to change our thinking around this.