Riddell's two from two not enough Sat, 14 Jul 2012
Two wins from two rides over jumps at Trentham today were a reminder of the skill of Awapuni horseman Jonathan Riddell but are not the signal for a full-time return to jumps riding ranks.
Going into today’s meeting, the jockey whose flat career was revived through his association with leading galloper Jimmy Choux had ridden just once over jumps this winter, finishing fourth on Waitaha Toa in last month’s Awapuni Hurdles.
That horse was again one of his mounts today and obliged with an easy win in the Ricoh Wellington Hurdles, completing a double after Riddell had won the Norman Bevan Memorial Steeplechase on Solid Steal.
Two years ago Solid Steal had in fact been ridden to victory by Riddell in the Wellington Hurdles, while previous rides on Waitaha Toa had produced a second placing in the 2010 Grand National Hurdles.
“This horse is a special case, he’s got so much talent,” Riddell said after Waitaha Toa had led for the last 800 metres of today’s 3400-metre slog in extremely testing conditions. “I rode Solid Steal for Paul (Nelson) as a favour and besides he’s another horse I’ve got a lot of time for.
“There’s no way I’ll be chasing rides though. When I was going hard at it a couple of years ago it was doing my head in trying to decide which horses to ride.”
Ironically, Riddell involves himself in a lot of schooling work with horses in the care of his partner Trina Marshall, but is happy to see others taking the reins on raceday.
“This way I’m able to enjoy it and I’m happy to pass the rides onto jockeys like Gary Walsh who also do a lot of the work,” Riddell explained.
Winning trainer Lisa Latta has a quite different take on the effect a horse such as Waitaha Toa has on her. “You can’t compare this to flat racing,” she said excitedly as the only jumper in her large team returned to scale.
“I love the schooling and all the rest of the work that goes into a horse like him, but I’m not so sure when it comes to the actual racing, it really gets me wound up.”
Riddell has been encouraging Latta into taking Waitaha Toa to Melbourne for feature racing, but she stated that such a venture would only be on the proviso that tracks would be sufficiently heavy.
“Most of his form has been on heavy ground and he’d probably need it like that if he was to head across,” said Latta, who confirmed that the rising 10-year-old’s most likely next target would the Grand National Hurdle at Riccarton on August 8.
In today’s win Waitaha Toa shook off a likely challenge from last year’s Wellington Hurdle winner Honey to score with plenty in hand by six lengths. Honey held second by four lengths from Thatz David, who made most of the running, albeit having to share the lead on occasions with eventual fourth placegetter Wotabuzz, who did not help his chances by racing too keenly.
Even money favourite Morpheus, chasing his fourth consecutive win, was no chance from early in the piece to carry his supporters through. He settled well back and was eventually pulled up when he blundered through the fence with 1400 metres to travel.
“He was just not travelling like he has been in his races lately,” said rider Richard Cully. “He’s handled heavy ground before but nothing like that and with the weight as well (70kg) it was just too tough for him.”