By Michael Manley
Thrilling finishes have been the trademark of the Warrnambool jumps carnival this year with each race seemingly upping the ante.
In five jumps races held this year, the greatest winning margin has been a length.
The Galleywood Hurdle though produced the best of the tight finishes with Saunter Boy, St Arnicca and Out And Dreaming fighting the race out for the entire straight.
At one stage it appeared St Arnicca and Out And Dreaming had the better of Saunter Boy.
Even Saunter Boy’s jockey Steven Pateman admitted that he thought he was in trouble with 200 metres to go.
Pateman though, who was on the outside of the other pair, managed to lift the grey gelding to victory in the final few strides to win by a long neck over St Arnicca with a short neck away third Out And Dreaming.
Pateman said he was worried that Will Gordon, who rode St Arnicca could have superior fitness to him as also rides on the flat.
“He was finding and I was mindful that he’s got 70.5 (kilos), those horses need to wind up with that weight and then in the straight I thought ‘Will Gordon, he rides them on the flat (and) if he beats me they’ll be saying that he’s fitter than me!”,” Pateman said.
Last year Saunter Boy started as a $2.10 favourite and finished fourth. He started $2 favourite this year.
“He’s such a class horse and we were so disappointed last year. You put it to bed and come back next year,” Pateman said.
The win gave Ciaron Maher his 11th feature jumps win at Warrnambool.
It was Saunter Boy’s seventh win over the hurdles and his fourth with Pateman on board.
Maher said Saunter Boy had been a great horse for the stable.
“His owner’s Australian Bloodstock thought he was coming to the end of his career on the flat and they sent him down to us,” Maher said.
“His flat form improved and he’s just an invigorated horse. I was keen on him winning this race last year, I thought he had a great chance but it is great that he’s come back.”
Maher paid homage to the riding ability of Steve Pateman and his demeanour.
“Steve Pateman, he’s very understated. He’s very modest himself but he’s an elite rider,” Maher said.
“He’s a great mate of mine but he had to pull out all his ability to get that horse over the line. It is fantastic. He’s a very good rider,” Maher said.
The Decron Dunroe Benchmark 120 Steeplechase also had the crowd roaring before the Galleywood Hurdle when Once Were Lost and Elvison cleared out from their rivals.
It appeared that half way up the straight Once Were Lost had the measure of Elvison, who had led from the outset.
Elvison rallied and came again to reduce the margin to a long neck.
Once Were Lost was ridden by Lee Horner and although he said he made hard work of it he always thought he was going to prevail.
Horner is the partner of Elvison’s trainer Amy McDonald, who he said wasn’t on course as it was their child Joe’s birthday.
“She would have been going off her head at home,” Horner said.
He said Amy was taking Joe to Extreme Bounce with family and friends.
“She’s being the great mum that she is and getting the rest of the horses worked and looking after the Grand Annual runner tomorrow. We’re hoping for a good day tomorrow and we’ll celebrate hard on Thursday.
Amy McDonald prepares Master Poet who will run in the Grand Annual Steeplechase. Lee Horner will ride the Dane Smith trained San Remo in the race.
Horner said while it was only Once Were Lost’s second win he was a genuine horse.
Horner said they loved Once Were Lost around the stable where they regarded him as the stable pony.
“He’s just a real legend, this horse. I was saying to the barrier boy who was leading me around that he’s the stable pony, he’s used for the nervous horses and stuff,” Horner said.
“They’re worth their weight in gold these old steeplechasers and on his off days he likes to race in steeplechase races.
“He just bowls around. His flat form is dead last, dead last and Pakenham doesn’t suit these sorts of horses because when the other horses quicken away they sort of lose interest because it’s really hard for them.”