By Julieanne Horsman at Scone Race Club
Suncraze has never finished outside the top two and in today’s $150,000 Hunter and North West Country Championships Qualifier it was more important than ever to keep up the pattern.
He was sent out $1.90 favourite but as the race unfolded Tamworth-based trainer Melanie O’Gorman feared his luck had finally run out.
“I was very nervous at the 200m,” she said. “I told a few people the day is going to come when he doesn’t run first or second and maybe it’d be today.”
Suncraze jumped in the first four and settled midfield. At the turn for home he had six horses of ahead of him but he also had a not-so-secret weapon on his back – top jockey Corey Brown who knows him inside out.
“He acted really weird today,” Brown said. “With him you’re riding three or four different horses in the one race and today he didn’t put his mind on the job at all.
“Mid race he travelled really well but when I went for him at the top of the straight he was stargazing, he ran away from me, he sort of threw all the toys out the cot and it wasn’t until the last 25m he got his head down and got into gear.
“It’s taken me a while to work him out. I think the heat may have upset him a bit today.”
It was a real nail-biter but in the end Suncraze did just enough. He triumphed denying last year’s winner Caerless Choice (Mitchell Bell) back-to-back titles. Unbiased ran a strong race for third and Remittance was brave, leading most of the way but finishing equal fourth with Rodney Northam stablemate, Try A Lil Harder.
“I think I only started to cheer the last couple of strides when I saw him really lift,” O’Gorman said. “This is a big deal for our stable.”
Both Suncraze and Paul Messara-trained Caerless Choice booked their ticket to the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final at Royal Randwick on Saturday, 7th April. Suncraze is unlikely to have another run before then.
“To be honest I just wanted to get through today,” O’Gorman said. “I know how to train him, I know how to space his runs. It’s not like he needs to race every week. We will probably just go straight to Sydney.”
A proud O’Gorman was full of gratitude towards Suncraze’s owner, Anthony Gow-Gates.
“He’s been a great supporter of mine and he sent me this horse as a yearling when I first moved to Scone and took out my trainer’s licence,” she said. “I can’t imagine how many offers he’s had. For a while there we were getting phone calls twice a week from people trying to buy the horse. I really have to thank him or not selling the horse because it’s obviously very good to have a horse like this in my stable.”
Off the track it was a fantastic day at Scone Race Club with plenty of entertainment all day long. The High Velocity Trick Riders pulled off some impressive stunts on horseback in between races, the jumping castle was a hit with the little kids and the big kids could try their hand at being a jockey on TAB’s virtual reality game. Local rugby league star Tim Smith lined up against After All That in the Man V Horse Challenge but in the end the horse prevailed.
Dubbo hosts the Western Region qualifier next Sunday and the wildcard at Muswellbrook the following week provides one last chance for horses who have missed out in previous heats to secure a start in the final.