Racing fans came to see him win and WA champion Luckygray did just that with a quality win in the Roma Cup (1200m), his second victory in the race.
The win was a hard fought one, after jockey Shaun O’Donnell, gave his charge every opportunity, after jumping well, by sitting in fourth position, one out.
When Luckygray went to Dawn Approach (Takahide Ikenushi), in the final 200m, Luckygray seemed set to pull away, however that galloper fought back and only a long head separated them after the stirring duel. Fuchsia Bandana, was a good third, three quarters of a length away, after being momentarily blocked for a run.
Luckygray was entitled to feel the pinch at the finish as his run last year in this same race (fourth) was his only one for the year. Shortly after that race he escaped from a handler at the Ascot pool, sustained injuries and was sent for a long spell, missing the chance for a third Railway Stakes victory.
Coming into the Roma Cup weighing 490kg, Luckygray was 30kg heavier than when he won his second Railway Stakes, in 2013, Trevor Andrews said before the race. However rival trainer, Dan Morton, saddling up Zester in a neighboring stall, exclaimed, “Trevor has also put on 30kg since then too.” (Yes, I did manage to break them up).
Clearly he can only improve with more race fitness and with more distance (the horse, not Trevor).
Luckygray’s trainer had the last laugh, claiming post-race, “this is what racing needs, he is so genuine, a super star who oozes class.” (It was pretty good training feat too).
The public agreed, despite huddling inside, in some of the coldest conditions experienced at Belmont. There was loud cheering behind the glass windows when the champion grey swept to victory.
O’Donnell who regards ‘Bradley’ (Luckygray) as the best horse he is ever likely to ride said the grey wanted to smash the barrier to get going at the start. “He was so anxious, he lurched sideways commencing but after speeding out of the gate settled well. He showed them what he is made of today and he is still number one.”
The same could be said of the jockey who despite some personal trying circumstances, in recent times, has shown great professionalism, maintaining good form, particularly in feature races, a fact mentioned by other riders.
His affection for the grey is obvious and matched by the pride his young 12 year old daughter, and valet, Giaan, has for her father.
O’Donnell said at the Roma Cup speech that ‘Bradley’ was “his knight in shining armour.” If he had looked sideways, at that stage, he would have noticed someone else with a beaming smile that clearly showed she regarded her father in the same light!
Team Luckygray is certainly hard to beat as a spectacle.
Luckygray has now won 14 times, including nine group wins, (from 29 starts) with earnings of almost $2.7 million.
Trainer Shane Quilty maintained his good form when Hey Bro also won on resuming from a spell. Hey Bro had good betting support, firming from $12 to $6 and comfortably accounting for Aerozine and Flying Zoe.
Quilty paid tribute to his Epsom Ave, Ascot, veterinarians for ensuring the horse had a career by performing a soft palate operation.
Jordan Turner rode a back to back double, in the third and fourth races, on Saxy Grace and Hey Bro, respectively.
Pushed back earlier in the 2100m race Saxy Grace was balanced up nicely by Turner to come down the outside to win convincingly. Trainer Adam Durrant described the small mare as a “good little earner who can stay all day.”
“I wish there were more 3200m races for her,” the leading trainer said. Durrant was referring to the WA Cup race where she showed her liking for the long race by finishing a good third behind Ask Me Nicely.
Brother and sister act, Jarrad and Jerry Noske, were also in the winner’s circle on Saturday, with Discoville and Surpark respectively, although the latter had to share the win with Gigante (Jason Brown).
Discoville gave Neville Parnham a double for the day as in the previous race Paul Harvey comfortably won on Malibu Style with perennial place-getter Keysbrook second.
The icy strong was probably at worst in the early races, a factor the Hall of Fame jockey reported to his Hall of Fame trainer.