Five talking points from a week of cancellations and major donations
ONE: Early call, the right call
Well done to the Wellington Racing Club officials and others involved with the early call to abandon Saturday's big day at Trentham. It was the right call on several fronts, the obvious one being around safety after massive rainfall left areas of the course under water. It also gave time to make alternative arrangements to reschedule the prestige jumping races, the Wellington Hurdle and the Wellington Steeplechase, now to be run at Hastings on Thursday. It would have been unfortunate if the historic races had been lost to the participants who put so much hard work into preparing their beloved jumpers for such races. The Wellington Hurdles, originally scheduled at 3400m, will now be run over 3100m but the distance for the Grant Plumbing Wellington Steeplechase will remain about 5500m. The original fields will stand and will not be re-drawn and no scratching fees will be applied.
TWO: Bequest emphasises that great things happen in racing
Despite questions being raised about the relevance of racing in a modern society (if you haven't read it, Google "Off The Pace: how our industry must change" written by Australian-based Kiwi Vicky Leonard) there are still some wonderful things happening in the game. By the way, Leonard's article is outstanding and totally relevant. But accentuating the positive is the bequest this week by the estate of a prominent Australian breeder. The bequest for the benefit of riders is the largest-ever to the Australian National Jockeys Trust (NJT). The $400,000 donation, announced on Saturday, came from proceeds of Denise Cobcroft's stud, which has continued operating since her death in 2010. The donation is the largest from an individual, fundraiser or bequest in the NJT's 13-year history. "It was Denise's desire that the money should benefit injured jockeys," Cobcroft trustee Bob Charley said. Breeders Classic winner In Her Time and last year's Stradbroke Handicap winner Under the Louvre are among the stakes winners bred by the Cobcroft estate. The daughter of a Hollywood actor worked on stage in London, New York, Paris and New Zealand before meeting polo player John Cobcroft at a horse show in 1966. "Denise Cobcroft certainly was one of a kind and the National Jockeys' Trust will remember her that way," the NJT said in a statement.
THREE: The Everest grabbing the headlines
The A$10 million horse race, The Everest appears to be turning into everything the Australian Turf Club would have hoped for. It seems every day another "The Everest" story breaks somewhere around the world with news about the October event. The Everest was fully subscribed as early as March when the last of the slots available were sold. The race's 12 available places, which came at a cost of A$600,000 per year (A$1.8m total), had been snapped up and the marketing machine has rolled on from there. A question mark was put over possible international entrant Caravaggio who lost his unbeaten tag with his fourth behind fellow 3-year-old Harry Angel in the July Cup at Newmarket during the weekend. The Clive Cox-trained, Godolphin-owned Harry Angel finished second to Coolmore's Caravaggio in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot and went into the July Cup as a 9-2 chance. The warning signs that a first defeat could be on the cards for Caravaggio became apparent more than 400m out with Ryan Moore hard at work on the 10-11 favourite while Adam Kirby carved out a contrasting picture on Harry Angel. Caravaggio's trainer Aidan O'Brien pointed to a slow start as a possible hindrance to the colt's bid to make it seven wins from as many starts. Caravaggio or not, The AJC must be delighted with the publicity The Everest has already received and despite cynicism from some quarters, the race looks like being a stroke of racing marketing genius
FOUR: The rise and rise of Rory
Rory McIllwrick's breakthrough season just keeps getting better. McIllwrick is well on his way to winning the national junior drivers' premiership and over the weekend he added the McMillan Equine Feeds New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship to his super season. The Otago based McIllwrick did not just win the championship, he dominated it with three wins and a second from four heats. He began the series by winning with Bettor Chance and Gypsy's Choice at Addington on Friday night. The following day at Forbury Park, McIllwrick won one heat with Mr Majestic and finished second in the other with Franco Huntington. He also picked up a second winner on the Forbury undercard with Blazer S to take him to 38 victories for the season. That should be enough to see him win the junior drivers' premiership at the end of the month.
FIVE: John Dickie reaches milestone
Bronze Over's win at Alexandra Park on Friday night was a magical moment for John Dickie. Not only was it the 500th New Zealand training victory of his career but it came with training partner and son Josh in the sulky. Dickie, formerly of Cambridge, relocated to Clevedon, south Auckland, around four years ago. He has trained 354 winners on his own account and 146 in partnership with Josh. With a handy team around them, especially in the trotting ranks, there will be plenty more wins to come for team Dickie.