Day At The Track

Redbelly Jack lays down the challenge

07:55 AM 12 Dec 2017 NZDT
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Redbelly Jack
Redbelly Jack looking to remain unbeaten in Bathurst's Soldiers Saddle Series.

Redbelly Jack will be strongly fancied to complete a clean-sweep of this year‘s Soldiers Saddle Series in Friday’s $15,000 final at Bathurst Gold Crown Paceway, after another outstanding win in last week’s semi-finals.

Driver Nathan Xuereb, for father Michael, again allowed the Rock N Roll Heaven four-year-old  to settle at the tail of the field from his second-row draw, and he was still last passing the 600 metres before setting the horse alight at that point.

Four and five wide around the final turn is not the best place to be at Bathurst, as the leaders often kick at that point, but he again showed an exceptional brand of speed to range up to a gallant Double Encounter, which had led up the three-wide train, to score narrowly but easily.

While the tactics might have appeared very different to the last lap “go for broke” charge in the previous week’s heat, in reality they were very similar, reliant on that high speed that enables Redbelly Jack to come from virtually anywhere in the field if he enjoys clear running.

Double Encounter was brave in edging death-seater Might And Main for second, and Studleigh Kristen ran on well for fourth to qualify for the final, along with Eliza Dushku and Hez All Courage.

John O’Shea handled the driving duties for Amanda Turnbull with the second semi-final winner Dream To Share NZ, sprinting well from mid-field to easily account for Zaras Choice and Sonny Studleigh, rating 1:57.7 for the sprint distance with a 58.7 final half.

He’s hopeful of retaining the final drive with the Kenneth J five-year-old, a horse he’s formed a good association with, winning twice this season and placing at every other run.

“He’s a lovely horse to drive, with no bad habits and a real genuine attitude. I really like him,” was J.T’s post-race assessment.

Others to make it through to the final from this race were Little Bit Dusty and Taylors Reason, from the Bernie Hewitt stable which will have four runners, and Presidential Dude.

O’Shea backed up for a driving double in the following C2 race when leading throughout on What A Jolt, for Lester Hewitt, a previous UDR trainer in the Bathurst premiership and very successful with his small team.

The Village Jolt four-year-old maintained a strong tempo, with all quarters sub-30s for a 1:57.3 mile rate, in taking his record to six wins from 12 career starts, four of those wins coming in his last six starts.

Lucy Lamb (Mat Rue for father Ken) came with a wet sail to score running away in a C3-C5 sprint, after some anxious moments for her driver who opted for a spot four back on the pegs, and who was in some danger of not finding clear room after working into the running line around the final turn.

Fortunately the run did come after straightening, and the Flightpath daughter did the rest, easily putting away leader What A Curtainraiser and death-seating Smithstars Lexus for her second success in what had been a rather mixed season.

“We’ve been teaching her to race from off the speed,” Mat Rue commented, “ and she seems to be getting the hang of it now. I’ve got to admit, that decision to head to the pegs after the start wasn’t looking too clever when I got held up between runners on the bend, and I wasn’t looking forward to explaining to Dad after, but now I won’t have to!

An orphan foal, she was raised among a paddock of lambs at the Lambs - Wayne and Anne’s Golden Gait Stud, that is - and was christened “Lucy the lamb” as a consequence.

That became her racing name after Ken Rue acquired her from the stud. The resilience that enabled her to overcome a tough start in life has also helped her cope with a lung disease and very brittle front feet, necessitating being shod every second week.

Little wonder that she’s one of the more popular horses racing in the western districts at the moment. If she settles in her races, there will be many more wins, and fans, in the future.

Other winners at this meeting were Always Mysterious in C0-C1 grade, driver Justin Reynolds repeating the successful tactics of Nathan Xuereb in the previous race by coming with one late run to score easily, and Steve Turnbull’s all-the-way effort with Shadow Hunter  in C0 class, the maiden win after a string of places for the half to Tiara winner Pixies Parlour.

The Bathurst RSL-sponsored Soldiers Saddle Final will be the highlight of a strong card at this Friday’s Bathurst Gold Crown Paceway meeting.

Terry Neil

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