It took almost all of the race distance of 4950m for The Great Eastern Steeplechase to be decided in an Oakbank thriller in favour of the Grant Young trained Spying On You ($5).
Throughout the running it was almost as if the eleven-year-old gelding was living up to his name as he kept a watching brief in third spot, tracking the $1.35 favourite Zed Em, in second place as another Young trained runner Pentelligentsia set the pace.
With a lap of the famous circuit left to run, Aaron Kuru on Zed Em went up alongside the leader to test Pentelligentsia, but Pentelligentsia still had plenty to give, and he resisted Zed Em’s challenge at that that time.
Down the back Kuru and Zed Em got more serious and stepped up the tempo but again Pentelligentsia was equal to the task.
This change of pace saw the two leaders, now focussed on their private battle, pull five lengths clear of Spying On You who for the most part had only been two lengths back, but Tom Ryan, aboard Spying On You, was not fazed, and he just kept his horse in a comfortable rhythm.
Pentelligentsia and Zed Em were going stride for stride with two jumps remaining with Spying On You still some four lengths back.
Pentelligentsia made a mistake at the second last fence, but recovered quickly and kept on coming but once over the last, it became apparent that the race in two was quickly becoming a race in three as Spying On You began to close in the sprint home on the flat, scything between the two long time leaders to win going away by a widening 3.50 lengths.
Trainer Grant Young, who also won the Great Eastern Steeplechase as a jockey, was ‘over the moon’ with the result.
“Geez, he’s been a marvel, hasn’t he? I couldn’t be prouder of him,” said Young. “He’d be classed as a champion, wouldn’t he?”
Jockey Tom Ryan was equally full of praise for the winner.
“He’s just such a warrior,” said Ryan. “He comes back year in, year out. He’s what epitomises jumps racing.
As far as losing touch with the leaders a bit with four fences left to jump, Ryan explained what was going through his mind at that time.
“He always hits a flat spot and he always loses ground at a crucial part of the race … that’s why he’s always probably been second, flying home.
“Today we rode him so we would be closer when we did hit the flat spot, so we could get through it as best we could and still be close enough there at the top of the hill to be able to come down the hill and have the last crack at them.
“After the last jump … he just knows his way around here. He just put his head down and his ears flat back and it all worked out well in the end.”