Secret flies to deserved Sir John Monash Stakes win

Secret Flyer’s capped his re-emergence as a sprinting force with a deserved win in Saturday’s $100,000 Listed Sir John Monash Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield.

The Mark Young-trained gelding cracked half a million dollars in earnings when he powered over the top of a small-but-select field to score the second Listed win of his career.

It made it two wins from three starts since snapping a 16-race run of outs earlier in the year and left Colac-based Young proud of the rising eight-year-old.

“He’s got a lot of heart the horse, he really has,” Young said. “What he lacks in class he makes up in competitive edge.

The son of Secret Savings took his earnings to $527,523 with his 11th win of a 38-start career that has also generated nine minor placings.

The small field of seven meant Secret Flyer didn’t have to settle as far back as normal and when jockey Luke Nolen was able to find the back of $3.40 favourite Warm Love just a couple of lengths off the lead he always loomed as a major player.

Nolen peeled him over the leader’s heels rounding the bend and he let down in typically explosive fashion, powering away for a length with over Rue Maple ($13) in 1:04.37 with Warm Love holding on for third, three quarters of a length back.

Group 1 winner Gold Trail ($3.70) was ridden aggressively to find the lead, but was under pressure before straightening and had to settle for fifth, while Uxorious ($5 to $4.20) also enjoyed a cosy run just off the speed but failed to let down in the straight.

Nolen, who was having his first ride on Secret Flyer, said it was a great effort to run down the leaders given the tempo wasn’t breakneck – the time was almost three seconds outside Here De Angels’ track record – and he won with a bit in reserve.

“It was pretty easy in the end he probably had a look when he got there, because he was presented with the race,” Nolen said.

“Off the farcical tempo, I thought they’d be harder to run down at weight-for-age, but he rose to the challenge.”

The victory completed back-to-back Sir John Monash Stakes wins for Victoria’s premier jockey, who won last year’s event aboard the Peter Moody-trained Reward For Effort.

Moody didn’t have a runner in this year’s race, but he did manage to creep one win closer to the magical 100 metro winners for the season, claiming the final event with Mr Make Believe.

The white-hot gelding made it four wins in a row when he won the Bib Stillwell BMW Handicap, taking Moody’s city season tally to 97.5 winners with three metropolitan meetings to come before the July 31 close of the season.

Three year funding package announced for jumps racing

Following consultation with the Australian Jumping Racing Association (AJRA), the Racing Victoria (RV) Board has approved a three-year funding package for jumps racing within the state.

Underpinning the package is a commitment to co-fund, with the State Government, the purchase of a second set of obstacles that will further RV’s commitment to optimising safety within the sport.

The new look obstacles, which have been credited with helping to halve the fatality rate in Victorian jumps racing over the past 16 months, will become a resident fixture in the state’s western districts.

They will allow for further trialling and training opportunities to assist in the education of horses and riders, whilst helping to maintain the integrity of the existing race obstacles through a shared workload.

As part of the package, RV has committed to fund an $8.85 million prize money budget over the next three years and will also provide an annual grant to the AJRA for administration of the sport.

Under the agreement, the AJRA will assume a number of jumps racing event and marketing activities currently performed by RV including the organisation of the annual Mosstrooper Awards Dinner.

The RV commitment comes on top of the recent $2 million four-year jumps racing funding package announced by the Minister for Racing, Dr Denis Napthine, as part of the State Government’s Victorian Racing Infrastructure Fund (VRIF).

The VRIF funding will not only assist in the purchase of a second set of obstacles, it will also see the establishment of an annual jumps racing workshop to improve race safety and participants skills and a Rider Development Scholarship as a means of raising promising second tier riders to the next level.

In addition, the Government contribution from unclaimed dividends will see minimum prize money increased to $20,000 per race, the introduction of a New Starter Incentive Scheme and provide for promotional opportunities around international participation.

It has also guaranteed major prize money increases for the Grand Annual Steeplechase and Grand National Steeplechase which will jump 66% and 25% respectively to $250,000 each from 2012.

“Racing Victoria is committed to providing enhanced opportunities for the education of jumps horses and riders to further the improvement in safety made since the conclusion of the 2009 season,” RV Chief Executive, Rob Hines, said.

“The second set of obstacles will be a welcome asset for the jumps racing industry, particularly in the western districts of the state, and will allow greater flexibility in programming trials and schooling horses in preparation for competition.

“In consultation with the AJRA we have defined a funding package for the next three years that complements the Government’s recently announced commitment to jumps racing and sets out a clear funding pathway for the future.”

AJRA President, Rod Rae, said with prize money and bonuses in excess of $10 million committed to jumps racing for the next three years that investment in the sport would be stimulated.

“This overall commitment will send a strong message to industry participants that jumping racing is here to stay,” Rae said.

“We are extremely pleased with the safety performance of jumping racing over the past two years and everyone is to be congratulated. It is second to none and we have established a new benchmark for world’s best practice.

“We are thankful for the support of the Minister for Racing Dr Denis Napthine, the Coalition Government and Racing Victoria as jumping racing now has the opportunity to relaunch with confidence into the future.”

Glaneuse the biggest longshot in Winter Championship history

The lion’s share of prize money from the $200,000 TROA/Luxbet Victorian Winter Championship Series Final (1600m) has headed across the border into South Australia with Mt Gambier pair Glaneuse and Riceman filling the quinella.

The Michael O’Leary-trained Glaneuse became the longest priced winner in the 32-year history of the Listed feature when he scored a decisive victory at odds of $31.

Like the punters, O’Leary gave himself little chance of victory after the horse missed his lead-up run when the Hamilton meeting was abandoned with surface water six days prior.

“I thought what am I doing here,” O’Leary explained when pondering the horse’s bad barrier and chequered lead-up. “But we’re here and we got the money and we’re very happy people.”

O’Leary paid tribute to winning rider Linda Meech who narrowly failed to complete a feature race double when Mid Summer Music finished second in the All Victorian Sprint Series Final 35 minutes later.

“I couldn’t believe he was up there so close. She rode him a treat,” O’Leary declared.

Meech said she was confident in the run and expected the five-year-old, who posted his 10th win from just 26 starts, to figure prominently in the finish.

“At the 600 (metre mark), I couldn’t believe how well I was travelling,” she said. “I actually thought I’d been left a sitting shot, but the horse did a really good job.”

On the line Glaneuse enjoyed a 1.3-length margin over Riceman ($11) who narrowly denied Rocky Times ($6.50) second placing, with heavily backed favourite Mr Griswold ($3.70) filling sixth place.

Despite being a rising 11-year-old, the Dean Saxon-trained Riceman continued his love affair with the Winter Championship series placing in the final for the second successive year.

Black Caviar vs So You Think?

Champions Black Caviar and So You Think have never met on the racetrack, but they are set to lock horns in the most exciting contest of the racing season.

The high profile four-year-olds headline a list of eight contenders unveiled today by Racing Victoria (RV) for the title of the 2011 Staging Connections Victorian Racehorse of the Year.

The award, which is voted on by members of the media, takes into account performances on Victorian tracks only during the 2010-11 season which commenced on 1 August.

The winner will be announced, alongside the Scobie Breasley Medallist, at the Victorian Thoroughbred Racing Awards presented by Tabcorp at Crown’s Palladium on Sunday night, 14 August.

Both Black Caviar and So You Think raced six times in Victoria this season for four Group 1 victories apiece, with So You Think’s third in the Emirates Melbourne Cup the only defeat between them.

Black Caviar’s four Group 1 victories under the tutelage of trainer Peter Moody were the Patinack Farm Classic (1200m), Coolmore Lightning Stakes (1000m), Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m) and Pulse Pharmacy William Reid Stakes (1200m).

So You Think’s four Group 1 victories for Hall of Fame Legend Bart Cummings were the Rokk Ebony Underwood Stakes (1800m), Yalumba Stakes (2000m), Longines Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) and a second Tatts Cox Plate (2040m).

Like Black Caviar, two other contenders, French-trained Melbourne Cup winner Americain and boom two-year-old colt Sepoy, were unbeaten on Victorian tracks this season.

American claimed the Group 3 Centrebet.com Geelong Cup (2400m) at his only other appearance, whilst Sepoy posted four victories including a clean sweep of the Patinack Farm Blue Diamond Series – the first horse since Bel Esprit in 2002 to achieve the feat.

The remaining four contenders all tasted Group 1 success in Victoria this season, with glamour Sydney mare More Joyous claiming a pair in just three starts with victories in the David Jones Toorak Handicap (1600m) and Rokk Ebony Futurity Stakes (1400m).

Grand veteran Zipping, a winner of the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) and a record fourth consecutive Group 2 Patinack Farm Sandown Classic (2400m), is the elder statesman of the contenders at nine years of age.

Crown Oaks (2500m) winner Brazilian Pulse, placed in all seven starts this season, is the only three-year-old on the list, whilst Group 1 Dubai Australian Cup (2000m) winner Shocking – a finalist for last year’s Victorian Racehorse of the Year alongside So You Think – rounds out the list of hopefuls.

The eight contenders for the 2011 Staging Connections Victorian Racehorse of the Year are (statistics relate to performances on Victorian tracks during the 2010-11 season);

1. Americain – 2 starts, 2 wins (2 x G1), $3,925,000

2. Black Caviar – 6 starts, 6 wins (4 x G1), $2,126,000

3. Brazilian Pulse – 7 starts, 4 wins (1 x G1), 3 placings, $994,138

4. More Joyous – 3 starts, 2 wins (2 x G1), $624,000

5. Sepoy – 4 starts, 4 wins (1 x G1), $819,250

6. Shocking – 10 starts, 2 wins (1 x G1), 1 placing, $1,086,750

7. So You Think – 6 starts, 5 wins (4 x G1), 1 placing, $3,478,500

8. Zipping – 6 starts, 2 wins (1 x G1), 1 placing, $1,213,500

STAR WITNESS GOES INTO SATURDAY’S DARLEY JULY CUP IN TOP FORM

Star Witness worked on the July Course early on Tuesday, July 5, and pleased both trainer Danny O’Brien and jockey Steven Arnold ahead of the Group 1 Darley July Cup over the same course at Newmarket on Saturday (July 9) due off at 3.35pm (BST).
 
The Australian raider, one of 19 going forward for the £400,000 six-furlong sprint after the previous day’s confirmation stage, has already run well in Britain, finishing second in the five-furlong (1000m) King Stands’ Stakes and third in the six-furlong (1200m) Golden Jubilee Stakes – both Group 1s at Royal Ascot.
 
O’Brien said after the five-furlong gallop: “That was very pleasing. Steven was really happy with the way Star Witness felt on the course.
 
“Obviously, it is a different course from what we would have at home. Most of our racecourses are fairly flat.
 
“The horse did not appear to have any problem taking the dips and rises. He was very strong through the line on his gallop. All in all, very pleasing.
 
“Steven commented that Star Witness felt very at home on that course – I am sure there are horses that don’t handle it. It is obviously different when you get under raceday pressure but it was all positive out there this morning.
 
“An Australian-trained horse has never won the July Cup – a bridge too far for the Australians in the past but naturally it is a challenge and we would like to be the first to win it.
 
“He is as good as he was on Golden Jubilee Day – he went into the King’s Stand Stakes needing the run – it was part of his preparation for the Jubilee but we were still hoping to win that race.
 
“He came out of the King’s Stand Stakes in great order and obviously ran very well on the Saturday without conditions being in his favour.
 
“He has had three weeks since and really enjoyed the environment here at Newmarket – he certainly has not gone backwards.
 
“The Darley July Cup is his last run. He is going to Widden Stud. He goes into quarantine straight from the races here on Saturday. He gets on the flight with all the shuttle horses and will start at Widden in September.
 
“The Darley July Cup will be very competitive – the horse who won the King’s Stand Stakes (Prohibit) was a strong winner, while Society Rock, successful in the Jubilee, ran second the year before. I think the top half a dozen sprinters here are very hard horses to beat. Delegator did not turn up at Ascot and he heads up the market for Saturday’s race.
 
“There is never a Group 1 race in a country like England that is going to be easy to win.
 
“If we can win on Saturday, we will have done a very good job. His places at Royal Ascot have not done his stallion prospects any harm – obviously wins are what matters in that department – we have been close but to get the real enhancement we would have to win.
 
“Probably of the three races, the July Cup is the most prestigious. If we could walk away with a July Cup win on this horse’s resume then would be a fantastic thing for him to take into his stud career.
 
“In racing, you have to look forward. Everyone in racing, be they an owner, trainer, jockey or punter has their hard-luck stories. There were two deserving winners at Ascot and we just hope we get our turn on Saturday.
 
“The dry ground we hope to have on Saturday will be in his favour – it would be fantastic to end his trip here with a win.
 
“I came here five years ago with a mare called Glamour Puss who ran in the King’s Stand Stakes and I probably learned a few things then. This year I knew I had to bring the horse over with plenty of racing left in him. We raced Star Witness only twice at home after Melbourne Cup week and brought him over just needing a run first time out. Because of that, he has held his form and we should have another really good crack on Saturday.
 
“Any time you travel, you never win if it is at the backend of anything. I took 10 days off after the Golden Jubilee but my assistant Paul has been at Newmarket the whole time. I got back here on Saturday morning.
 
“Star Witness is a very good five and six-furlong horse. He was a very precocious two-year-old who won a Group One on his third start. He won another Group 1 in the spring – he is a nice explosive sprinter. Six furlongs is probably as far as he wants to go. He should do well at stud.
 
“We probably would like to hold him up for a bit longer on Saturday. We got a bit exposed in the Jubilee – we probably went a fraction early as the horses down the stands’ side rail looked to be well in front. We were out on our feet in the last 100 metres. We need to be running to the post rather than staggering to it.
 
“I will leave it to Steven but I am sure he will be a little bit more patient on Saturday and hold it together for as long as he can. There a was a strong headwind and soft ground for the Jubilee and they ran 1m 17s for 1,200 metres which is unheard of back home. This horse has won Group Ones running 1m 8s so you know when they have run a much slower time that it has been a significant test.
 
“On the July Course on top of the ground, they are going to run 1m 10s or 1m 11s so it is going to be a different race – at least six seconds faster. Star Witness will be able to run to the line a lot stronger than he did in the Jubilee. Horses really relax for Steven in races.
 
“Star Witness is a good-natured horse but he is a real competitor. On a raceday, he just wants to get out there and get on with it.”
 
Steven Arnold added: “Star Witness seems to be holding his form well which is obviously important and, if he ran like he did at Ascot, he will be competitive on Saturday.
 
“He handled the dips well in hand but it is different under race pressure so you never quite know. There is a steep uphill rise but for the first couple of furlongs you go downhill.
 
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it is not quite as testing as Ascot over six furlongs. The speed in the race will dictate where we are – we will probably be just behind the pace.
 
“I rode here two years ago in the Darley July Cup on Scenic Blast – there are few undulations but I will just ride the horse where he is comfortable.
 
“If he performs up to his best, he will be in there at the finish. Scenic Blast came off winning the King’s Stand Stakes so he was in good form as well but he did not put up his run that day for whatever reason but he was gone well before the rise so it was not the track.
 
“Star Witness seems to be in great form – I was really happy with him this morning – but until the race pressure comes on you are never 100 per cent sure.
 
“I have stayed in Europe since Royal Ascot and had a bit of break – I went to Spain and looked around Barcelona as well as having a few days in Paris.”