Australia’s "winningest" jockey Robert Thompson is working hard to clinch his first Hawkesbury winner in six years at Saturday’s TAB stand-alone meeting.
Thompson, his tally currently standing at a remarkable 4340 winners, has five mounts and two of them are for good mate, Newcastle trainer David Atkins, in $200,000 Group 3 features - the 1600m Livamol Hawkesbury Gold Cup (Plaisir) and 1400m Blacktown Workers Group Hawkesbury Guineas (Fuchu).
It is the talented but enigmatic Plaisir, the recent Provincial Championships Final placegetter, that he is attempting to ride as close as possible to his allotted 53kg minimum. Thompson’s riding weight is normally 55kg, but he has been given permission to ride $8 chance Plaisir 1kg over.
“I can ride him at 54kg, but I’ll try and get a bit below that if I can,” Thompson said. “I’ll have to work a bit harder around the house to see what I can get down to.”
Ironically, Thompson’s last winner at Hawkesbury also was at the annual stand-alone fixture, in another feature 1600m event. It was on May 5, 2012 when he landed the Rowley Mile (now run at a later timeslot in the year) on Star Of Octagonal.
Hawkesbury is not one of Cessnock-based Thompson’s regular venues and in fact he has had only 16 rides there since for four placings. Two of those placings – including a strong-finishing second on Plaisir in Hawkesbury’s $150,000 Provincial Championships Qualifier (1400m) – have come from only three rides at the track in this current season.
Thompson and Plaisir’s trainer Atkins go back a long way. They teamed to land the 1986 Moonee Valley Gold Cup with Reckless Tradition and again with the same horse when a courageous seventh to At Talaq in the Melbourne Cup soon after. Thompson has ridden Plaisir, a four-year-old son of former Newcastle champ Choisir, six times for two wins and four placings. Plaisir produced a typically brilliant finish from last to grab third placing behind Serene Miss and Newsfan in the $500,000 Provincial Championships Final (1400m) at Randwick on April 14.
“He is a big, strong horse but is hopeless early and you just have to go with him,” Thompson said.
“He does everything in slow motion until he decides to get going and he can certainly finish.”
The 1600m shouldn’t be a problem, and the long straight at Hawkesbury will suit him as he showed last month (when runner-up to Uptown Lad in the March 10 Hawkesbury qualifier).
Plaisir had a stewards’ warning placed on him when he stood flatfooted in the barrier before giving away a decent start and still overpowering his rivals in a Class 2 Handicap (1400m) at Newcastle on February 17.
Thompson has never ridden stablemate Fuchu, a three-year-old son of All Too Hard, who has raced only three times for a Newcastle Maiden (1400m) success last November and two placings, the latest a first-up photo-finish second to Revolver over the same course in a Class 2 Handicap on April 14.
He also partners Le Cordon Bleu ($125,000 Listed Hawkesbury XXXX Gold Rush, 1100m) and Sharpness ($175,000 Group 3 Godolphin Crown, 1300m) for Team Hawkes and My Tagoson (Hawkesbury Gazette Benchmark 84 Handicap, 1500m) for Scone’s Rod Northam.
Thompson last rode Le Cordon Bleu (a Hawkesbury 1000m winner in September, 2014 at his only start there) when sixth in the Listed Xmas Classic (1200m) at Randwick on December 30 last year.
“My Tagoson was a bit disappointing in the Country Championships Final (at Randwick on April 7), but had to back up after finishing second in the Wild Card at Muswellbrook only six days earlier,” Thompson said. “The break since no doubt will have done him good.”
Leading trainer Chris Waller has given a solid pointer to the chances of Sambro (Josh Parr) in the Hawkesbury Guineas. He withdrew the three-year-old from both the Group 3 Gunsynd Classic (1630m) at the corresponding Doomben meeting and also from My Tagoson’s race (1500m Benchmark 84).