Robert Thompson wins his fourth Ramornie Handicap
MERCURIAL jockey Robert Thompson equalled a 65-year-old riding record when favourite Big Money won a thrilling $150,000 Crowe Horwath Ramornie (1200m) in Grafton yesterday.
The 56-year-old riding legend from Cessnock was already a three-time winner of the time-honoured Listed sprint, first conducted in 1917, but equalled the dual back-to-back feats of Cecil "Skeeter" Kelly.
Kelly won the Ramornie back to back on two occasions - Travatore in 1955-56, and Blue Dart (1958) and Glanceful (1959).
Thompson won back to back Ramornies on The Jackal in 2007-08 and last year won a memorable Ramornie aboard veteran Youthful Jack for close friend, Taree trainer Ross Stitt.
Three other riders have also won the event back to back - Billy Cook on Oriental and Yankee Lad in 1947-48, his son Peter Cook on High Classic and Tandrio in 1982-83 and the late Neil Williams on Credit Again (1986-87).
"It's amazing it took me 30 years to finally win one. Now I've won four in less than 10 years," a delighted Thompson said after unsaddling the winner. "It's an amazing game, racing."
With a large crowd cheering the favourite, Thompson was able to produce Big Money from the rails into an opening soon after straightening and the Rodney Northam-trained four-year-old exploded with his rare brand of acceleration.
Starting a well tried $2.20 favourite, Big Money scored by three-quarters of a length from early leader Rocky King ($14) with Sydney-trained Territory ($7.50) rattling home from near last for third. He ran 1.08.87 for the 1200m, not far outside the Jackal's race record.
"Rodney and I have been together for a long time. It's been a great association," Thompson said. "It's lovely to win this race for him and the Gunter family who bred the horse.
"Big Money is only a young horse who has been well looked after. He should go on from here. Really, Rodney's done a marvellous job with him. There maybe something special for him down the track."
Thompson, a riding icon amongst the jockey brigade and highly respected by his peers in the racing industry, has more than 4000 winners to his credit. He has been instrumental in Northam's career, the Scone trainer said.
Thompson would be a worthy recipient into Racing's Hall Of Fame.
"He's helped my career so much. He'a such a genuine bloke. When you put him on you know he's going to get the job done.
"He's done some amazing things for my career."
Northam admitted he was very "relieved" after the win. The pressure of training a hot favourite doesn't bode well with the likeable Northam.
"This is a relief but a great thrill," Northam added. "Robert better not retire otherwise I'd have to retire as well. He's a genius.
"Big Money is just a real little trier. He loves winning; that's what has got him this far.
"He'll go straight to the paddock now and we'll bring him back in the back half of the spring, then maybe we can take on the big guns.
"He's the best horse I've trained for sure. He's still untapped."
Big Money was bred by Phil and Leona Gunter from Jerrys Plains. Thompson won several races on Big Money's dam Lyn's Money.
Gunter revealed on Tuesday Lyn's Money died shortly after giving birth to Big Money.
She was bitten on the lip by a snake trying to protect her foal. Big Money was raised by a foster mother.