By Ray Hickson
Barely a nose separated stablemates No Laughing Matter and Siesta Key when they clashed earlier this month and, after coming off second best in that battle, apprentice Dylan Gibbons is hoping to partner both to victory at Wyong on Wednesday.
The 19-year-old isn’t hiding his excitement at reuniting with No Laughing Matter in the Jeff Englebrecht Racing – Rising Star Heat (1350m) and hopes the emerging filly can be just as powerful on a dry track as she has been in the wet.
No Laughing Matter has won three of her six starts for Kris Lees and Australian Bloodstock and was a $1.40 favourite when Brenton Avdulla coaxed her home over Siesta Key at Taree on January 4.
“I don’t know how much improvement she has in her but she keeps taking the next step up,’’ Gibbons said.
“Her three wins have all been on rain affected tracks so there is some reason to believe she might be a wet tracker but in saying that she has also raced well on good tracks.
“She’s a very exciting filly, everything she is doing is through raw ability.
“Once she hits the front she thinks the job is done and that almost cost her the other day when she was up in grade. She hit the front too soon then she floated and waited for Siesta Key.”
Of course Gibbons rode No Laughing Matter, $3.90 with TAB, to an easy Class 2 win at Taree just before Christmas, where she was clearly just far too good, so his comments about her switching off are interesting.
She was taking on an older and more seasoned rival, one whose toughness Gibbons vouches for, so to still come out on top speaks volumes about her promise but Lees has added the blinkers for her next assignment.
From a perfect draw at Wyong, Gibbons says he should be able to give the filly every chance to keep her winning run going.
“You can’t fault anything she does, she has a lovely attitude and is so relaxed,’’ he said.
“She does everything pre-race just switched off, once you’re in the gates and the machine opens you just have to point her where you want her to go. She’s lovely to deal with and has a good turn of foot to go with it.”
Siesta Key has already proven herself just as adept on top of the ground as in the wet so Gibbons is confident she can hold her form in the Happy Retirement Wyong Trainer Stan Thomas Handicap (1300m).
The four-year-old spotted her stablemate 3kg at Taree and after the claim she carries 55kg, the lightest weight she’s carried since she contested one of last year’s Provincial Championships Qualifier.
“She drew wide (at Taree) and I had to make the best of a bad situation, I was able to get three wide with cover for a little bit but then that horse punched on so I was three wide outside the leader punching the breeze the whole way,’’ he said.
No Laughing Matter downs Siesta Key at Taree on January 4
“It was a huge effort, she wasn’t entitled to take me as far as she did let alone fight back and nearly beat the other horse. She‘s full of heart and guts and she tries.”
Gibbons concedes the Taree race was a hard run but said Siesta Key, $7 with TAB, is a tough mare who will bounce through it easily and sees no reason why she won’t hold her form.
“I’ll be able to put her where she wants to be and she will do everything right and be ready when I need her to. She’ll get a softer run and be hard to beat,’’ he said.
It’s been a dream start to Gibbons’ riding career with 26 winners already since his debut at the end of last season and is taking the attention in his stride that comes as much from being apprenticed to Kris Lees and being popular jockey Andrew Gibbons’ son.
“I had a fair few eyes on me to start with because my first race ride was an odds-on pop for Kris Lees at Taree,’’ he said.
“But I haven’t had any trouble dealing with that side of it, I just focus on what I’ve got to do.”