Pressure makes diamonds but punter expectations was only part of the equation for jockey Darryl Horner Jr in Tuesday’s Brierly Steeplechase (3450m) at Warrnambool.
Horner Jr’s mount Flying Agent started as a $1.80 favourite but the jockey also had months of his sister-in-law Amy McDonald’s work getting the horse to the event on the line.
Favourite backers had a reasonably easy watch on Flying Agent but Horner Jr admitted to a few nerves piloting the gelding around the unique Warrnambool jumps track.
Flying Agent was travelling a lot better than his rivals jumping the last obstacle but had to get past the game Bit Of A Lad in the straight.
The eight-year-old powered clear late to score by 2¼ lengths.
“When I got off the strapper said, ‘that was good’, I said ‘not for me, I was sh–ting my pants’,” Horner Jr said.
“But how good is this horse?
“It’s remarkable. They were all gone around me and he had them in second gear.”
Horner Jr’s brother Lee was Flying Agent’s regular rider before he suffered ankle fractures, which will keep him out of the saddle for the majority of the jumps season.
Horner Jr said his brother and McDonald resisted the temptation to burden him with riding instructions, knowing Flying Agent’s clean jumping would take him a long way to victory in the Brierly Steeplechase.
“Lee and Amy didn’t fill my head full of instructions,” Horner Jr said.
“They didn’t put any pressure on me at all.
“They had enough (pressure) on as it was at $1.70.
“He’s the sort of horse that even when he gets in close to a jump, he still comes away from the other side of it running.
“His jumping is remarkable. All Lee does is brag about it and brag about it but until you ride him you don’t appreciate it.”
Winning a Brierly Steeplechase was not enough reason for McDonald to give up strapping duties on Flying Artie.
But McDonald had a secret weapon in the form her seven-year-old son, who was allowed to skip school to watch his mum’s biggest win as a trainer.
“I couldn’t thank the owners enough to show me the faith and send him (Flying Agent) over. It’s amazing,” McDonald said.
“(It was a) long term plan that has paid off.”
Bit Of A Lad’s brave second prompted TAB.com .au to cut his price from $5 into a $4 favourite for Thursday’s Grand Annual Steeplechase (5500m).
Bubbles brings up 200 for Maher-Eustace
– Gilbert Gardiner
Bubbly Lass gave Ciaron Maher reason to celebrate at Warrnambool, as one of his three winners on the first day of the May carnival.
Mawaany Machine gave Maher and David Eustace a race-to-race double over the fences, before Bubbly Lass sealed a running treble and doubled as the stable’s 200th winner for the season.
Madam Charm saluted in a Hawkesbury maiden to give the powerhouse training combination winner No.201.
“It’s a credit to the team to get that amount of winners for the season,” Maher said on Tuesday.
“Certainly very proud of them, and what better place to do it than here at the ’Bool?”
A pair of seconds capped the treble, putting Maher on track for a record haul at the ‘Bool as he has
an arsenal of runners enlisted for days two and three.
Maher has favourites Saunter Boy in the Galleywood Hurdle and Nikau Spur going around on Wednesday, and a host of chances on Thursday, including three runners in the cup.