By Mark Angus - South Australian Jumps Racing
Despite being recognised as Australia’s Most Consistent Jumping Horse in 2016 at the AJRA Mosstrooper Awards, and having a record over the past four seasons of which many other chasers would be justifiably proud, it can nevertheless be argued that when the big races come around, Grant Young’s Spying On You tends to get overlooked by most observers in both the build up and the betting.
Whether this is a consequence of being trained in South Australia and so not always being in the media spotlight is hard to say, but there is a fair case to be made that Spying On You is currently Australia’s most underrated (and under appreciated) steeplechaser.
Whatever the reason for his being largely unheralded, by any standards the improvement the 9-year-old has made over the past five seasons is outstanding, and this is combined with a consistency and a surety in his jumping that are testimony to Young’s ability to keep jumping horses performing at their peak for extended periods of time.
Early on, it would have taken a very astute judge indeed to be able to spot Spying On You’s jumping potential.
Although he won a maiden hurdle at Bendigo in September 2014 in only his second jumps start under previous trainer Russell Cameron (in a race in which none of the five others in the field went on to have especially stellar jumping careers), in subsequent jumps races that season he showed little promise of what was to come, with a best result being 3rd place in a BM120 hurdle race at Bendigo (in which he was beaten by Vatuvei and Zataglio).
Grant Young then took on the horse in 2015, and progress was relatively slow at first, finishing 6th in a hurdle at Morphettville carrying 64 kg in July, before being pulled up in the SA Grand National Steeple in August and then finishing 3rd in the Irish Steeple (behind Zataglio and King Triton). However, later that season signs of Spying On You’s toughness and appetite for work began to be apparent when he won a 2,200 m race on the flat at Murray Bridge in September, and followed this up with a convincing win in a 3,600 m steeplechase at Coleraine just four days later.
2016 was the breakout season for Spying On You and the year in which he was righty rewarded with national recognition.
A 2nd place finish in the steeplechase at the Oakbank prelude meeting was then followed by a 4th in the Von Doussa (he fell in the Great Eastern, the only fall to date in his jumps career). In April, he then ran 2nd in a chase at Gawler, won over fences at Mt Gambier in May, before place finishes in the SA Grand National Steeplechase and over hurdles at Morphettville in September. (In between these was also a disappointing 7th in the Australian Steeplechase, when he looked well set with two to jump but, unusually for him, seemed unable to stay the distance.) Overall, although there was only one win during the season, his consistency was there for all to see and a sign of things to come.
In 2017, Spying On You recorded his first win in a major Australian jumps race when he won the Great Eastern Steeplechase at Oakbank with Tom Ryan aboard (a relationship which has proved to be a very fruitful one for the pair). This was the first win in the state’s premier chase by a SA-trained horse since 2003 and was for Grant Young was a special milestone, as he had previously won the race as a jockey on Bruskin in 2000. There were only two more starts over obstacles in 2017, both of which indicated Spying On You was in need of a spell, and which were duly followed by a six-month lay off.
Refreshed, the gelding’s good form continued into 2018, where two early wins on the flat (over 2,200 and 2,400 m) were followed by a win over hurdles at Gawler in February. However, 2018 was in many ways a season of near misses for Spying On You. Solid performances at Oakbank, where he ran fourth in both the Von Doussa and the Great Eastern, were followed by a 3rd in the Grand Annual (in what turned out to be the second epic tussle between Gold Medals and Zed Em in three days). Sadly, he was then brought down when well in contention at the second last in the Australian Steeplechase at Sandown in May, and was then agonisingly beaten by a nose by Sea King in a thrilling Grand National at Ballarat in August.
However, the important statistic that largely went unnoticed from Spying On You’s 2018 jumps campaign was the fact that he won over $100,000 in prize money in Victorian races alone, a feat that not many SA jumpers have come close to matching in recent years.
Although it is still early in the season, in 2019 Spying On You has already put together another string of consistently strong performances, including second in both the Von Doussa and Great Eastern at Oakbank, and third in the Grand Annual at Warrnambool in May (all behind Zed Em).
When you put together this body of work over the last four seasons, there are not many chasers who have proven themselves to be so durable and so often in the reckoning in major races, and while perhaps lacking the turn of speed that some of his rivals possess, Spying On You’s genuine staying and jumping ability should never be questioned.
Although the triumph in the 2017 Great Eastern Steeplechase at Oakbank remains Spying On You’s only major jumping race win to date, his consistently strong performances in the other major Australian chases are surely worthy of more respect and recognition. Anyone who appreciates jumps racing has to admire the horse’s heart and determination, and the fact that he continues to front up and perform, no matter the opposition or the occasion.