Jockey Tiffani Brooker had her fair share of publicity going into her ride on Sneaky Starter in the $2 million Magic Millions Two-Year-Old Classic … in fact, a lot of publicity if you consider Sneaky Starter started at a price of $201.
For the most part though, Brooker’s story, in essence, focussed on her overcoming the odds in a personal capacity, firstly getting the better of an injury which threatened to plague her career, and then fighting her way through the dark abyss of drug abuse which threatened to not only derail her career, but her life, to come out the other side a very strong, focussed person.
While that all was entirely inspirational in itself, nobody was about to give Brooker and Sneaky Starter much of a second glance in the race itself … but Sneaky Starter and Brooker, whose solid performances in the saddle in recent times hardly got a mention, were certainly not there merely to make up the numbers.
In fact, they had a specific mission in mind and, as obscure as it might seem to many, they only had to beat two of the other fifteen runners home to claim first prize in the lucrative Magic Millions Racing Women’s Bonus … a bonus paid to the highest placed finishers amongst horses owned entirely by Women.
That first prize was a cool $325 000!
That’s $325 000 … meaning, incredible, only the horses who finished first and second in the Classic would take home more prize-money than the first all-women owned runner to cross the line.
As it turned out, Brooker played a significant part in bringing home that $325 000 box of chocolates for Sneaky Starter’s connections. Arguably, as they say, the ride won the day.
In such a competitive line-up it was no mean feat for Brooker to get Sneaky Starter to land in the leading line and then to get her to respond even more to take up the running at the head of affairs, a position which Sneaky Starter held until shortly after the field turned for home.
As the race favourite Coolangatta and the second favourite Russian Conquest swept passed Sneaky Starter … remember that wasn’t her race … it all became a question of how well Brooker had rated Sneaky Starter and whether the Mick Mair trained runner could still find enough to keep her two rivals for the Racing Women’s Bonus at bay.
“I did get a bit excited coming to the furlong,” said Brooker. “I thought I might run top five.
“She led up a very classy field and that was her first try at 1200m too … but, like I’ve said all the way along … she wants to please … she does everything right … she’s all heart.’
That combination of Brooker’s aggressive but measured ride and Sneaky Starters willingness to compete meant that, in relative terms, Sneaky Starter kept on to the line strongly enough to fill seventh place … that was two places, or just half-a-length, clear of Stupendo, Sneaky Starters closest rival for the Women’s bonus.
In other words, Brooker had rated Sneaky Starter perfectly. Ca-Ching!
“She probably did run better than out expectations. It was just such a pity that Mick (Mair) couldn’t be there. He is not well in hospital,” said Brooker. ‘He has just been so good to me. He just makes it so easy for me. He is a pretty good bloke to ride for. There’s no pressure.
“There is a first-time owner in Sneaky Starter as well, so she won the jackpot. It was great.”
The difference between first and second place prize-money in the Racing Women’s Bonus was no less than $225,000 as Stupendo’s connections picked up $100,00 for their trouble while the connections of Cusack, who finished last, pocketed $50,000.
Is the Racing Women’s Bonus concept a winning one?
That depends on who you ask.
It is a great if you are involved in it and chasing the prize but, if you are not and own a horse that finishes fifth only to realise that the horse that finished sixteenth (11.50 lengths behind your fifth placed runner) earned a bigger cheque than you (as was the case this year) … well, what would you think?
The rules are the rules though and were clearly defined many months before the running of the race, so there can’t be any quibbles about that at this time or any real knock on what has already transpired … but, maybe though … just maybe … as with any concept evolving over time, the Racing Women’s Bonus could be refined or simply tweaked to include a performance criteria … such as, for example, a horse must finish in the first half of the field to be eligible for the bonus in order to, at least, make it a bit more difficult to pick up a cheque than by just going around.
Any concept designed to bring people into the racing game and further the cause of the industry … as is the stated motivation of the Racing Woman’s Bonus, is always to be welcomed … but, equally, the concept should always be open to review to see if any improvements can be implemented.
For now though, congratulations are due to all of the three all woman ownership groups who played the game well, taking full advantage of the opportunity presented to them, and came away as big winners!
For the record … taking the actual Two-Year-Old Classic prize-money pool and the Racing Women’s Bonus payouts into account, these were the top eight money earners in the Magic Millions Two-year-old Classic.
$1 160 000 – Coolangatta (Finished first)
$360 000 – Russian Conquest (Finished second)
$345 000 – Sneaky Starter (Finished seventh)
$180 000 – Snitcat (Finished third)
$120 00 – Stupendo (Finished ninth)
$90 000 – Perfect Mission (Finished fourth)
$60 101 – Cusack (finished sixteenth)
$50 000 – Mishani Warfare (Finished fifth)