The whip goes west as Tom Sadler celebrates his win on Laylite. ALICE LAIDLAW/RACING PHOTOS
The weather wasn’t great but we had a great day’s jumps racing at Warrnambool last Sunday.
The rain set in early and I reckon the steeplechase course up through Brierly Paddock at the back of the track was as heavy as I have ever experienced it.
In such conditions there always excuses for many in beaten brigade. One in that “boat” was Patrick Payne’s classy jumper Sir Lopez. He really struggled in the conditions (sixth in the Thackeray Steeple).
The Thackeray was a spectacular race and featured a remarkable job by Shane Jackson to stay in the saddle after Dormello Mo made a mistake at the third-last fence. He faltered on landing, shooting Jackson up into the air.
It looks amazing on the race replay and I can assure you it was even more impressive when viewed riding alongside him!
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rider go so high and still stay on board.
Dormello Mo stuck to his task to finish fifth while his stablemate Police Camp proved too strong for me on Bit of a Lad in the run home.
Police Camp has won his past two and is just starting to work out what steeplechasing is all about. We were pulling ground off him late but the four kilos weight difference told on us. We couldn’t reel him in.
Police Camp’s victory was a maiden feature win in Australia for Englishman Will Gordon.
Kid cruises through the mud
The other feature last Sunday was the Lafferty Hurdle which I won aboard Killarney Kid.
The horse felt fantastic throughout and I knew a long way out that he was going to be hard to beat.
There were some prior to the race concerned about Killarney Kid on a heavy track but (trainer) Patrick Payne had no concerns and once again he was proved correct.
It was pointed out to me after the race that Patrick’s horses have accrued more than $3.5 million in prizemoney in jumps races in the past 11 years. That is an extraordinary feat and also shows how much money is available if people want to send their horses jumping.
Killarney Kid stalked his main danger Euroman before running him down in the straight. Euroman is a promising jumper who went very well again. I think he has the ability to pick up a feature race.
Fourth home in the Lafferty was the James McNamara-trained Hornet’s Nest. He finished 18 lengths away and connections have decided that it is time for him to be retired.
James did a great job looking after Hornet’s Nest as he was never the soundest horse. He was a quality hurdler at his best as he showed with his win in the 2017 Lafferty Hurdle.
Promising jumpers claimed the other three hurdle races on the program at Warrnambool.
Eric Musgrove’s Youl Dash For Cash made it back-to-back victories when snaring the hurdle restricted to winners of one race.
The maiden hurdles were claimed by Firefree and Robbie’s Star. The latter is a very good wet-tracker.
I finished runner-up to Robbie’s Star on Michelin. I took him to the lead in a change of tactics and he certainly raced a lot better.
Firefree benefitted from a great ride from Tom Sadler to claim the opening race.
Sadler earned the wrath of the stewards in the maiden steeplechase but he certainly pleased me!
He won the race on Laylite, a $1200 purchase and a horse I train. As he kicked clear in the straight, Sadler couldn’t help himself ... standing up in the irons and waving to the crowd in delight.
He dropped his whip and copped a $200 fine for his exuberance.
It was a special win as Laylite is quite a character around the stable. Sadler has done plenty of work with us to help get him right.
Fellow jumps jockey Paul Hamblin spotted Laylite for us in Queensland. We bought him and weren’t sure we had made the right call when he jumped poorly in a trial at Ballarat last month.
We almost got rid of him, he was that bad. However, I had put a tongue tie on him and he clearly resented it. We took it off for his next trial and with Sadler on board he went much better.
Sunday’s maiden wasn’t the greatest field assembled but conditions suited and it was a very satisfying win.
The race also highlighted a bugbear of mine with the current jumps racing rules. Before any horse can race in a steeplechase it has to have contested a hurdle.
Horses like Laylite are just not competitive in 3200m hurdles. They are run at a faster tempo than a steeple and they can’t keep up. At Laylite’s only run over hurdles he finished 78 lengths from the winner. When this happens, owners can be forgiven for thinking, ‘my horse is no good at jumping — let’s not bother’.
Comics the danger
Gawler hosts a hurdle and a steeplechase race this Saturday.
I’ve picked up the ride on Felix Bay for Amy McDonald in the hurdle.
He hasn’t been over the jumps this season but he showed promise last campaign.
He was placed in successive hurdles before claiming the South Australian Grand National Steeple.
He should be competitive this weekend.
Hardest to beat will be the Kathryn Durden-trained Comics. He was a strong winner at his second run over the hurdles and looks nicely placed with only 64kg.
I don’t have a ride in the steeple but I expect Patrick Payne to be prominent (again) with the promising chaser Sweet Lullaby, who hit the line strongly when winning on debut over fences at Warrnambool on June 20.
Sweet Lullaby’s biggest danger is likely to be Eric Musgrove’s Lucques.