In a world where big numbers are thrown around with reckless ease, Leon Macdonald is a man of modest ambitions.
“Just give me one good horse for the spring and I’ll be happy,” Macdonald said.
Macdonald knows it isn’t quite so easy, but there have been remarkably few springs when he hasn’t had his wish.
At Caulfield on Saturday Macdonald’s “one good horse” proved too good for a lot of owners and trainers who have dozens of them.
Southern Speed, a mare who had previously won only three races, won the $2.5 million Group One Caulfield Cup to give Macdonald his greatest moment in a career he said felt like it had begun 100 years ago.
A perfect ride by top Melbourne jockey Craig Williams helped Southern Speed to a 1-1/2-length victory over one of her “big number” rivals, Green Moon, with Tullamore in third place.
Green Moon is owned by Lloyd Williams, the man who built Melbourne’s Crown Casino and one who has rolled the dice relentlessly in a bid to find big-race winners around the world.
The entire, who began his racing life in England where he won three races, is one of 10 northern hemisphere horses who joined Williams’ team late last year.
Third placegetter Tullamore is trained by Gai Waterhouse who turns over more than a hundred horses each season in a bid to find those who can win the big-money races.
Further back in the field were such horses as Mighty High, trained in Hong Kong by expatriate Australian John Moore, the son of legendary jockey George Moore.
The most successful trainer ever in Hong Kong, Moore’s horses have won more than $HK1 billion and have raced around the world.
Also back in the pack were the international raiders Manighar and Drunken Sailor from the stable of Luca Cumani, one of England’s most successful trainers.
Cups King Bart Cummings saddled Precedence who ran 10th and the German raider Lucas Cranach was fifth.
The favourite December Draw, another imported runner, finished last after racing near the rear all the way.
As they all toiled and failed, veteran South Australian Macdonald had only a fleeting concern that things were going too well for his mare.
“At the 600 metres I was worried she mightn’t get off the fence,” he said.
That worry may have only been a small one, but Southern Speed’s win was accompanied by a large regret that Macdonald’s regular jockey Clare Lindop hadn’t been in the saddle.
“Clare did all the early work with her, it’s not good,” he said.
Macdonald didn’t say so, but he made it clear the choice of jockey was not his.