Tallyho Twinkletoe (Aaron Kuru) clears one in the Grand National Steeple. PAT SCALA/RACING PHOTOS
Patrick Payne’s incredible jumping season finished in style last Sunday with Tallyho Twinkletoe easily winning the Grand National Steeplechase at Ballarat.
Payne’s 2019 record over the bigger obstacles was sensational. He prepared Zed Em to win both the Great Eastern Steeple and Grand Annual Steeple, Sir Lopez won the Australian Steeple for him, then Tallyho topped things off beautifully last weekend.
It’s a feat that historians tell me has never been achieved by another trainer.
Unsurprisingly, Payne was awarded the 2019 J.J. Houlahan Training Championship trophy. Winner of the horse category went to Zed Em and I was delighted to pick up the jockeys crown.
But getting back to Tallyho Twinkletoe, well, he is just a freak jumper. In his Grand National Steeple win, and the Grand National Hurdle one start prior, he simply poured on the pressure 1000 metres from home and proved too strong.
Tallyho Twinkletoe is a great advertisement for patience. Now nine, he had two years off due to major leg problems before his unbelievably successful return to racing.
I’d love to see him head to England and have a crack at a race like the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Obviously it would be a stiff test but it would be great for Australian and New Zealand jumps racing to have such a good horse on the world stage.
Easy for Ablaze
Sunday’s J. J. Houlahan Hurdle went to the very promising jumper Ablaze, prepared by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.
I rode Ablaze when he easily won his maiden jumps race at Coleraine. He got into the Houlahan on the minimum weight (64kg) and bolted in, with Richard Cully aboard.
Interestingly, Ablaze was the seventh individual winner of a feature hurdle race this season. Casiraghi (Classic Hurdle), Big Blue (Galleywood), Chequered Flag (Australian Hurdle), Killarney Kid (Lafferty Hurdle), Gobstopper (Brendan Drechsler) and Tallyho Twinkletoe (Grand National Hurdle) were the others.
And who is the best hurdler among those seven winners? I’d probably settle on Tallyho Twinkletoe but Big Blue would give him a run for his money.
Big Blue’s season came to an end when he bruised a tendon. Ciaron and David have him back in work with an eye on another ATC St Leger (he won the $500,000 race last year).
Courageous in defeat
The great Wells put in a typically brave effort in his attempt to win a fourth Grand National Steeple.
He finished third, the burden of 73.5kg and trying to stay in touch with a potential star in Tallyho Twinkletoe (69kg) proving too much.
At 13 next season he won’t be allowed to have another shot at the National. His connections are considering sending him to America. I hope they go through with it.
Other races on last Sunday’s jumps card gave an indication we’re in for some exciting times again next year.
Ascot Red looks to have a bright future over the fences. He travelled wide but proved far too strong in his BM120 steeplechase assignment.
Firefree completed his consistent season proving too strong in the Gotta Take Care Hurdle. Sunday’s win was his third over hurdles and trainer Cliff Murray has done a terrific job guiding him.
Firefree was second to Tallyho Twinkletoe in the Grand National Hurdle and that race would likely be his main target in 2020.
The maiden hurdles were claimed by Flying Agent and Wicked Trilogy. Wicked Trilogy won by an astonishing 20 lengths.
Sunday was a tremendous day of jumps racing but a bit of a rollercoaster journey for me as a trainer and jockey.
I rode Euroman in the Gotta Take Care Hurdle and he was a disappointing third. He felt flat.
My Four Oh Nine, a horse I train, ran home solidly for second to Flying Agent. He can go to Morphettville next, for the popular Irish race day (September 6).
My two other rides on Sunday didn’t run up to expectations. Wolfendale made a mistake about 1000 metres out and lost his winning chance so I pulled him up. Gobstopper ran okay for fourth in the J.J. Houlahan Hurdle. With 68kg he couldn’t match it with the lightly weighted horses who filled the trifecta.
In my training role I had Mapping and Laylite in the BM120 steeple. Mapping led and gave a bold sight before finishing third. Laylite was pulled out of the race late but he is fine. Both will improve next season.
TV for lucky Lee
Congratulations to Lee Toohey of Apollo Bay (Vic), who won a $1500 70-inch television, courtesy of the Australian Jumps Racing Association, in our Grand National Steeple tipping competition.
Lee correctly nominated Tallyo Twinkletoe as the winner and then his name was the first of the successful entries drawn out of a hat.