The feat was remarkable — the timing not so good. Terrible, in fact.
12-year-old Wells, one of our greatest jumpers, scored a thrilling victory in last Sunday’s Crisp Steeplechase at Sandown.
The time-honoured feature race was run at 11.05 in the morning. What a shame so many people missed this champion’s latest performance.
The Crisp was worth $125,000 on a program where most of the races carried $50,000 purses.
It shouldn’t have been be hidden away at the start of the meeting.
Logistics and “jumps turnover” are usually offered as excuses for that sort of placement, but any race run early is going to suffer in turnover.
The Crisp attracted a field of nine, so each-way betting was available. Four of the nine runners were at single-figure odds, so it was an even contest.
There would have been strong betting interest had it been run later in the day.
Those who “switched on” early enough got to see an enthralling battle to the line between Wells and his lightly weighted challenger Slowpoke Rodriguez.
Slowpoke looked to have Wells covered 150 metres from home but the three-time Grand National winner refused to give in.
It deserved a much better audience.
The whole card could do with a revamp, actually.
I think it is time to make this Grand National Hurdle meeting an all-jumps affair.
We had three jumps races on Sunday with at least nine runners in each. The pool of horses qualified to go jumping is growing all the time. This time next year we should be in a position to host an all-jumps meeting — six races.
I appreciate not everyone is a fan of betting on jumps racing, so authorities could schedule an all-flat meeting at another venue to create a nice Sunday smorgasbord in Victoria.
Sunday’s Grand National Hurdle win by Kiwi visitor Tallyho Twinkletoe was impressive.
He’ll switch to the fences for the Grand National Steeple at Ballarat on August 25.
The bigger obstacles shouldn’t be a problem because he’s a steeplechase winner back in New Zealand.
My mount in the Grand National Hurdle, Killarney Kid, ran a battling fourth and probably felt his weight burden (69kg). I thought he was a good chance coming to the second-last but lugging that impost up the hill at the back of the Sandown course proved telling. He stuck to his task okay but we couldn’t make any ground on the first three.
Oh no ...
The other hurdle race proved something of a bittersweet result for me.
The horse I train, My Four Oh Nine, charged home to finish second behind the Amy McDonald-prepared Master Poet.
I rode Master Poet, a former Kiwi, when he finished second at his Australian hurdling debut. After the race I recommended to Amy that she put blinkers on him. I thought they’d do the trick but I didn’t expect that advice to cost me a race!
My Four Oh Nine had switched from fences last Sunday and it took him a while to adjust to the smaller jumps. He’ll be better for that hitout and should be right at his peak for the Gotta Take Care Hurdle (4000m) on Grand National Steeple day.
Master Poet might be a leading chance in the J.J. Houlahan Hurdle (3200m) at the same meeting if Amy chooses to go down that path. It’ll be a much tougher assignment but he is coming along nicely.
Looking ahead to the Grand National Steeple, it’s going to be a huge assignment for Wells to claim his fourth.
He was well weighted with 70kg in the Crisp Steeple. My mount, Bit of a Lad (third), was certainly too close to him with 68.5kg.
Wells is likely to rise to around 73.5kg for the National while Bit of a Lad may get a kilo or so less than he carried last Sunday.
However, the two best Grand National Steeple trials last weekend were turned in by Patrick Payne-trained gallopers.
Slowpoke Rodriguez only received six kilos from Wells and nearly won. The difference in weight between them in the National should be closer to 10kg.
Payne also has Tallyho Twinkletoe, who must be considered a huge chance to nab a second consecutive feature.
Casterton hosts three jumps races on Sunday.
I have Surging Wave, Historic and Mapping tackling the Casterton Steeple. Historic looks the best of them.
In the maiden hurdle I’m riding Think Alike for Eric Musgrove. I won a trial on him at Traralgon on July 26. There were only two other runners in the heat and we beat them easily. He jumped well enough and should be competitive on Sunday.
In the Casterton Hurdle I’m back aboard Ascot Red.
I won a maiden hurdle on him at this meeting last year.
It turned out to be a good form race as the placegetters, Mr Coyne and Youl Dash for Cash, have both won jumps races this year.
Ascot Red is switching back to the hurdles after placing in two steeplechases in May.