Wells turned in one of the great performances in the history of Australian racing when he won his third successive Mosstrooper Steeple at Pakenham last Sunday.
Any horse that can win the same feature race three years in a row is obviously very talented, but to do it over fences is extraordinary.
Prepared by Kathryn Durden, Wells was well weighted with 70kg under the set weights and penalties but he wasn’t suited by the way the race was run.
The slow tempo early on turned it into a sprint home, yet the old horse still found enough to outlast Lucky Tonight.
It’s a shame that under the rules of racing, Wells will be forced to retire at the end of next season (when he turns 13).
He’s loving his racing and there’s certainly no jumps form dropoff! This time next year there is every chance he could win a fourth Mosstrooper, before being forced away from the game.
We had a similarly ridiculous situation in 2015 when Bashboy lumped 74.5kg to a stunning third win in the Grand National Steeple as a 12-year-old, but wasn’t allowed to defend his title.
I think it’s time to revisit this age rule. No one involved in racing is going to send their horse around if it’s a danger to itself or another runner or rider.
Perhaps instead there should be a cap on the number of races a horse can contest. In the case of Bashboy, he only raced 56 times. Wells had his 56th start last Sunday.
Mick Bell’s hardy sprinter Jungle Edge has raced 71 times and is three years younger than Wells. Next year Wells will have to be retired to a paddock while Jungle Edge is likely to be closing in on 100 starts.
Perhaps 100 starts should be the figure for retirement, rather than age.
Meanwhile, Wells is on track for another tilt at the Grand National Steeple (Ballarat, August 25).
He won the race in 2014, 2016 and 2017. He had 73.5kg last year and lost his rider at the first fence.
I assume he’ll get around 73.5kg to 74.5kg this year. It’s a weight he can win with but the connections of last Sunday’s runner-up, Lucky Tonight, would certainly fancy their chances of knocking him off.
There was only five kilos between them in the Mosstrooper and Lucky Tonight made the champ work hard for his victory.
Lucky Tonight will be much fitter for their GN clash, and better suited at the weights.
Gobstopper gets the job done
The other feature last Sunday was the Brendan Drechsler Hurdle, won impressively by the Kiwi visitor Gobstopper.
He set a good pace in front and found plenty at the business end to defeat Comics and Euroman.
All three are lightly raced jumpers who can improve further. I think Comics will be a good ’chaser in years to come.
I rode Killarney Kid in the Drechsler and was very confident of success at the top of the straight. We were only three lengths off Gobstopper and I hadn’t yet asked my horse for an effort.
He jumped the second-last hurdle okay but stumbled on landing and almost threw me off. He didn’t hurt himself in the incident but as he’d lost all chance of winning, I didn’t make him jump the final obstacle.
Killarney Kid will be a strong contender in the Grand National Hurdle at Sandown on August 4.
Michelin earns a holiday
Patrick Payne’s enigmatic hurdler Michelin finally put it all together for a strong maiden win at Pakenham.
He’d been beaten at a short price at his previous four starts but was on his best behaviour last Sunday.
He’s off to the paddock for a holiday now.
Second home was the Amy McDonald-trained Flying Agent. He stuck to his task very well for a minor placing at just his second run over jumps and looks to have a bright future.
The other maiden race at Pakenham was taken out by the Jarrod McLean-prepared Elvison.
I finished second on Master Poet and thought I was a chance on straightening, but Elvison jumped the last two better than us.
More in store ...
The other two jumps races, on a terrific program, went to promising gallopers.
Firefree, with the in-form Tom Sadler on board, won his second successive hurdle for trainer Cliff Murray. I’d question the depth of the field but all you can do is win and Firefree did that.
The restricted steeplechase went to Sweet Lullaby, who relished the roomy track and finished strongly to score.
A horse I train, My Four Oh Nine, finished second to her. He’s starting to put it all together and should pick up a race over a longer trip soon.
Sir Lopez retired
The one sad note out of the week’s jumps racing was the news that Patrick Payne’s classy jumper Sir Lopez has been retired due to injury.
The Australian Steeplechase winner won five of his nine starts over obstacles.
Andrea can hit back
Morphettville hosts a jumps race this Saturday, the AAMI Hurdle over 3100 metres.
I think the shorter trip will suit the Archie Alexander-trained Andrea Mantegna.
Not a lot went right for him when he ran fourth (beaten eight lengths) over 3340 metres at Gawler. He was beaten narrowly at his previous two at Morphettville.
His dangers look to be the in-form Youl Dash For Cash (Eric Musgrove) and Jarrod McLean’s Jumbo Prince. The latter finished third at Gawler at his first run over hurdles.
$1500 TV winner
Congratulations to Joyce Livingston (Meeniyan, Vic) who won our 70-inch television, valued at $1500. Joyce correctly tipped Wells to win the Mosstrooper Steeple.
25 entrants selected Wells and their names went into the barrel, with Joyce the lucky winner.
We will have another television to give away, courtesy of the Australian Jumps Racing Association, on Grand National Steeple day (August 25).
Keep following the jumps so you’re on top of the form and ready to have another crack at this comp.