The Tabcorp Warrnambool May Racing Carnival is regarded as the biggest and best country racing carnival in Australia and the 2012 edition certainly backed up that statement with three outstanding days of racing. It is the pinnacle of jumps racing in the Southern Hemisphere.
It all kicked off on Tuesday with the $100,000 Brierly Steeplechase (3400m), which was taken out by the Robert Smerdon trained Fareer courtesy of a wonderful ride from Tom Ryan. 11 of the 12 horses jumped superbly, with Phaze Action making a mistake at the second last fence. Thankfully, he wasn’t seriously injured.
The day belonged to Smerdon and champion hoop Steve Pateman, who won the opening two maiden hurdle races courtesy of Brungle Cry and Kirribilli Gold, both of which jumped well given it was their race debut over the obstacles. Those two races only had one horse from each who failed to finish, but no injuries.
Day Two saw the running of one of the great hurdle races, the $100,000 Galleywood Hurdle (3200m). World class jumper Black And Bent was the $1.40 favourite and justified that short quote with a brilliant win despite covering extra ground in the run. He is the king of jumps racing, while the runner up Gotta Take Care is just about the prince after running the champion to 1.25 lengths.
The main sprint race during the carnival is the $125,000 Wangoom Handicap (1200m). The two best backed runners, Second Effort and Wealth Princess, drew away over the final 100m for a sterling battle but in the end, the photo went in favour of Second Effort, who covered extra ground. He was marvellous in winning, but the runner up was unlucky. Arguably, with luck, she wins.
And then on to the third and final day- and what a wonderful day of racing it was. It started off in the right now for punters when Palmero cruised to a nine length win in the 0-120 hurdle event and once again, Steve Pateman came to the fore.
The racing after that was tough for all concerned as the track did deteriorate throughout the afternoon. And then the race we all waited for- the $250,000 Grand Annual Steeplechase (5500m). 33 obstacles, the longest race in Australia…The toughest race for any rider/horse in this part of the world.
Steve Pateman and Patrick Payne have each been in cracking form in recent times and they combined with Awakening Dream, who finished second in the infamous 2011 edition of this great race. This time though, they went one better when Pateman rode the perfect on-pace race to stroll away with a 15 length demolition job. From six jumps races during the carnival, Pateman won five of them. He is the best jumps rider we have got and surely now ranks as one of the best in the world after his fautless display over the three days.
The other key race during the final day was the $200,000 Tab Sportsbet Warrnambool Cup (2350m). Mr O’Ceiren was the well tried favourite, but after being given the perfect ride by Bossy, the former kiwi whacked away for fourth, mainly because he was on inferior ground near the fence. The race was won by the gallant mare Dance With Her, who was ridden a treat by Steve Arnold. This was his second win in the race after winning it in 2002. She fought on like a tiger and held off the unlucky Domesky and Hurdy Gurdy Man.
And wasn’t it great to see the ageless warrior Jungle Ruler win the last race of the carnival!? He travelled beautifully in front, as he always does with Gauci riding him. He kicked for home, was home until Luckyi’mbarefoot came with a late surge and seemingly won on the line. But the photo said otherwise, with the old boy holding on for a tenacious victory.
After the Banna Strand incident last year, the grubs associated with the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses were adamant that there would be similar carnage from last year. But here are the facts: 62 starters over the jumps for three falls and three fail-to-finish gallopers…no deaths (at the time of this article being written).
Their campaign to ban jumps racing can be summed up like this: 8799 people like their Facebook page. People who were on track have told me that seven…that’s right, seven people turned up at the track to protest their cause. Three of them were arrested. After the fall of Goldtown in the opening race on Thursday, Nikki Crighton had this to say on the ban jumps racing Facebook page in regards to the horse and the rider Arron Lynch: “I hope he’s (Lynch) NOT ok! And that he’s made to ride while he’s hurt and sore!!! Maybe the horse should of landed on him instead!”.
Enough said really.