By Julieanne Horsman
“It is like winning The Everest for us battling country people.”
That was the declaration of legendary bush jockey Robert Thompson after he piloted After All That to an upset victory in the $200,000 TAB Anniversary Highway.
The $11 chance beat favourite Suncraze in a photo finish in the race, held to celebrate two years since the introduction of the hugely successful TAB Highway series.
Robert Thompson, a veteran of more than 4500 wins, guided his mount up the rails to pinch victory.
“We’ve been together for a while and he has pulled out one of his special ones today," Scone-based trainer Rodney Northam said of his jockey.
"The shortest way home is the fence. That’s what he always says.”
The fact After All That is even racing is a feat in itself. The now six-year-old gelding only made his debut as a four-year-old after breaking his hip twice as a juvenile.
Northam, never gave up on him though and named him accordingly.
“He’s a really good, honest horse. He tries his heart out,” Northam said. “We ran second in the Country Championships but this has just eclipsed that, it’s really good.''
Followers of After All That will have noticed his jockey wasn’t wearing his usual silks. Northam instead opted to send Robert Thompson out in the colours of local charity, Where There’s A Will.
“Where There’s A Will is a charity that was instigated to educate people with depression,” Northam said.
“It’s something they have put into schools, they go around educating people, more in the Upper Hunter, and hopefully it will expand from there. It’s a really good charity and hopefully they will get some publicity from this.”
Earlier, odds on favourite Don’t Give A Damn justified his short price with a dominant win in the $100,000 TAB Consolation Highway. The race, also over 1400m, was created when 42 horses were nominated for the Anniversary Highway.
The four-year-old gelding, who boasts a record of three wins and a second in four starts, went forward from barrier 14 and took the lead by the 1000m.
As they turned for home he edged away with every stride to win by two-and-a-half lengths from previous Highway winners Schedule and Superstar Bob.
“The horse is untapped,” Williams said. “He’s got a lot of ability and does things on natural instincts at the moment.
“He’s crying out for a mile and when the horse fully develops and furnishes, anything is possible.”
Don’t Give A Damn will now be spelled and aimed at The Country Championships next year.
“We will throw some noms in for the better races like The Doncaster over a mile because I think he is that style or horse” Williams said.
“I’m sure there is a lot more improvement in the horse. I know he has beaten country horses today but he is doing things above his maturity at this stage.”