This Bond doesn't need the flash cars, he's got a big enough motor of his own video

Will Gordon and Thenamesbond (right) about to take the lead back from Ooee and Aaron Kuru.

Will Gordon and Thenamesbond (right) about to take the lead back from Ooee and Aaron Kuru.

He's no secret agent but Thenamesbond is tough as teak, can jump, can run and he might be warming up for his best season yet.

The Stephen Ralph-trained hurdler was falling back through the field late in Saturday's $50,000 Waikato Hurdles but, like a boxer climbing off the canvas, his fighting spirit kicked in and he found his second wind to claim the second Prestige hurdle scalp of his career.

Ralph described the Te Rapa victory as a special one following a season of near misses and disappointments last season.

To make it even sweeter, Ralph and his partner Melanie Sutton race the eight-year-old son of China Cat.

The Big Opal secures Waikato Steeplechase win as second place Joking spectacularly crashes out at last fence
Allan Sharrock's plan pays off with Ladies First in Gold Cup
Racing Integrity Unit defends consistency around presenting cobalt charges
David Walsh to share knowledge with apprentice jockeys
Stephen Ralph thinks Will Gordon is the man for Thenamesbond in Northern

"She does plenty of the work so it's great to win it together," Ralph said of the couples Waikato Hurdles win.

But their winning was not done there.

In the last race on the card, the Ralph-trained Thunder Down Under brought up a memorable double when he caused a major boilover at 45-1.

Ralph and Sutton are part owners of the four-year-old son of Street Sense who won the rating 75 1400 by a head to cap a day they will not forget anytime soon.

Ad Feedback

Thenamesbond, unsurprisingly known as James around Ralph's Te Awamutu stable, is likely to chase another Prestige win at Ellerslie on June 5 when he has his third crack at the K S Browne Hurdle.

He brought up his first Prestige win in the 2015 edition of the race and was fourth last year.

"He loves Ellerslie and he loves heavy tracks so it's a good race for him," Ralph said.

The overnight rain that turned Te Rapa into a slow 7 on Saturday played right into Thenamesbond's hands and Ralph said the inclusion of top-weight Sea King in the field, to help bring Thenamesbond's weight down to 65kg, also helped.

But he reserved the highest praise for his jockey Will Gordon.

Unhappy with how some jockeys were trying to settle the natural frontrunner back in the field last season, Ralph went to Gordon on the advice of prominent jumps jockey Shaun Phelan and has never looked back.

"He rode him perfectly. I couldn't believe the race was turning out exactly how we had talked about," Ralph said.

"When I saw Will attacking them down the back straight I was really pleased. That was the plan to get them all chasing and under pressure and try and run them out of gas.

But when Thenamesbond was picked up by race favourite Ooee and 56-1 outsider Yardarm with 450m to run he looked beaten.

"We always knew he would get back on the bit when they straightened up," Ralph said.

"He's a real fighter that knows where the line is. He's a very good last 100-metre horse."

The Waikato Hurdles win, at his third attempt, was a redemption of soughts for Thenamesbond.

He was looking a strong winning chance last year but lost significant ground when he clipped the third to last jump before running home strongly for fourth.

"No disrespect to anyone else in the field but we really thought we had the horse to win it last year," Ralph said.

Thenamesbond, unbeaten in one start over the steeples, will get his chance over the bigger fences, but it is unlikely to come until the feature hurdle races are done for the season.

As impressive as Saturday's win was, there was plenty of room for improvement.

Ralph said Thenamesbond's condition could still be improved and he also crashed through the top of a couple of fences.

"Physically and with a bit more experience now I really think he can go on with it this season."

His half-length victory over Yardarm was his seventh hurdle victory from 28 starts.

All up, he has now won 10 races.

Had Yardarm not run out to the outside of the track he would have made the finish more interesting.

Sea King, second favourite on the tote and favourite on the final field option, never got into the race in the testing conditions and was pulled up before the final fence.

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback