The last Gai day of Autumn horse racing
SYDNEY, April 29 -- Race one and the first of jockey Nash Rawiller's five rides (all favorites) is Hallowell Belle. Shoulders hunched back he rides the $2.50 chance out of the parade to the track with an air of controlled confidence and a steel set in his eyes. Despite finishing third it would be the start to another successful day at Royal Randwick in what has been an extraordinary Autumn racing carnival for power pair Nash Rawiller and trainer Gai Waterhouse and all the connections involved.
Race one winner, Angel of Mercy, took the honours despite being listed as only 'a place chance' in form guides while second place getter, Bound to Blush, was ridden by promising young jockey James McDonald. McDonald came from New Zealand to race and live in Sydney and upon arrival set Randwick alight last week (Doncaster day) winning the opening three races on Dear Demi, Single Style and Lightinthenite. He then won the Group One Galaxy sprint with Temple of Boom ($11.00) in the eighth not to mention scoring two fourths all on the one day. Coming second by a neck to Angel of Mercy the signs of a repeat performance were ominous and he followed it up steering Iggi Pop to 4th in race two and Dear Demi to 2nd in race three.
It was good to see some of the big characters present for such a fine day of racing. Bart Cummings was there to cast an eye over Precedence who ran in the Sydney Cup. And Mark Kavanagh was giving interviews after Atlantic Jewel ($1.12 favourite) continued its winning streak in the group one Ticketek All Ages Stakes (1400m) beating Rain Affair by one-and-a-quarter lengths. Speculation is growing about a juicy match up between Atlantic Jewel and the great one, Black Caviar.
There is no greater character in racing than Gai Waterhouse. As far as I'm concerned Randwick belongs to Gai. She owned the carnival and scored a significant amount in prize-money... 'Waterhouse won seven Group 1 races and more than $6 million prizemoney during the autumn carnival' (The Daily Telegraph).
At the end of race two Gai was on the podium passing around bottles of Johnnie Walker after Fat Al took out the Johnnie Walker Frank Packer Plate. At the end of race three she was back, this time distributing bottles of Moet to the happy connections and even giving her trainer's plate award to a small boy to hold up to the cameras after Pierro won the Moet and Chandon Champagne Stakes group one race.
Three races down - a group three and a group one already in the bag (Fat Al and Pierro) Rawiller was afforded a rest having no runner in race four and more time to stretch his legs after King Mufhasa was scratched in race five. With no ride in race six he was able to watch Niwot take out the big one, the Sydney Cup, which meant come race seven he was freshened to ride More Joyous.
The afternoon sun lit the perfect backdrop of the Randwick track as TV presenter Richie Callander got alongside a clearly emotional John Singleton, part owner of More Joyous. They slowly walked along the flowered footpath from the finishing post towards the hordes of punters to where horse and rider would emerge. Singleton had limited amount of time to relish the moment as Callander, microphone in hand, got ready and waited until they were to go on air. Then they were live with camera crews and photographers stalking their slow vigil. With a bursting smile and watering eyes Singleton took it all in his stride accepting the crowds cheers of "you're a legend Singo" and "your shout Singo" as they made their way to Nash Rawiller.
The crowd applauded loudly and shouts of, "best ride of the carnival!" and "when two legends come together you can't beat em!" could be heard while Rawiller negotiated his way into the parade ring and leapt of his horse. During speeches Rawiller said of More Joyous she's "never let us down" and that he'd been "more nervous than ever" going into this race, even more so than before riding More Joyous to win the Doncaster.
It was a fitting way to end the carnival - a day full of theatrics associated with the sport. A Strapper, by the name of Annette was left shaking and crying with joy when her horse Skyerush ridden by Blake Shinn fought out the finish to win by a long neck to Fibrillation and Divorces in the fourth race of the day. Annette was inconsolable in her happiness repeatedly patting down the horse after the race describing it as 'so precious' and telling it to 'smile for the cameras'.
Race six the 3200 meter Schweepes Sydney Cup saw two old warhorses battle out first and second with Niwot prevailing over Efficient by a long neck. Both horses have overcome injuries. Aussie horse Niwot shattered a knee after winning the 2009 Winter Cup and vets said the horse would never run again while the New Zealand bred Efficient has been plagued with injuries since his Melbourne Cup win in 2007 (He won with a dividend of $22.70!). Gai Waterhouse's Once Were Wild, ridden by Jim Cassidy, finished 3rd to Niwot and Efficient and paid $7 to place. Permit gave a scare pulling out of the same race when he slowed up on jockey Kerrin McKevoy. A lost horse shoe during the race was the explanation for the top chance bailing out.
Tiger Tees won the last race of the day and sent two punters home $100,000 richer who were part of the 'super 7 racebook competition'. Four players out of thousands who entered had correctly chosen the winning horses from race two and there were four left by race eight, two on favourite Nobby Snip ridden by Nash Rawiller and two on the $9.00 Tiger Tees ridden by Christian Reith. To make tension worse the finish went to a photo.
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This story first appeared on my blog.