Racing a test of skill
By TONY WHITE
RIDING 600 kilo thoroughbreds in driving rain on a sodden racetrack can create difficult circumstances for jockeys.
Apart from visibility, simply maintaining a firm grip on greasy reins takes more than a small amount of skill to ensure survival and a winning chance.
At yesterday's Grafton TAB meeting, the postillions were forced to endure unfavourable conditions better suited to frolicking ducks than race horses.
Jockey Darron Coleman experienced a rider's nightmare when he was forced to alter his grip on the reins on three occasions before winning the Patrice Products Class 1 Hcp (1600m) aboard Coffs Harbour-trained, Light Southerly.
The Gordon Yorke-prepared four-year-old gelding, with the addition of blinkers for the first time, was, under instructions, driven from the barriers to take up a forward position just behind the leading division.
Light Southerly, described by Yorke as 'thieving' when switching off in his previous races, suddenly wanted to pull hard with the shades when the pace dropped.
"He pulled hard and the reins were greasy which didn't help," a mud spattered Coleman said after the win.
"Three times I had to gather him up hoping he didn't get on the heels of the horses in front."
The leaders quickened slightly and Coleman, who was back in the saddle with his feet hard against the stirrups, eventually gained control.
It was a torrid ride early but Coleman's work was far from finished.
Soon after straightening Coleman hoped Light Southerly would race up on the bit and overhaul the leader Sunhill.
However, after joining Sunhill, Coleman had to stop the gelding from hanging in and use all his vigour to get Light Southerly home narrowly from Sunhill and a fast closing Fuji.
In racing there is often more that goes into a ride that first meets the punter's eye.
York said the blinkers had made a big difference.
"I thought he was better than he was showing, the bugger was just thieving," he said.
"He just switched off last start at Port Macquarie and was bludging. I told Darron to drive him forward with the blinkers and make him do a bit of work."
Yorke, formerly training out of Wyong and Gosford, became a national celebrity when he trained unheralded Fire Oak to win the Group One Victoria Derby at Flemington as a maiden in 1990.
He will be looking to further success with his promising galloper Natural Destiny in the Noholme Hcp (1100m) at Randwick tomorrow.