'We're just not having the ounce of luck we need'
Nick Pulford and Alan Aitken
John Moore landed a double at Happy Valley last night with Triple Expresso and Able Win - leaving fellow Australian trainer Bruce Hutchison to rue how 30 metres may have cost him at least one important victory in his battle to save his training licence.
The 30-metre reduction in distance for the three 1,200-metre races on the card had appeared of little significance when announced on Tuesday, but Hutchison felt it was the difference between winning and losing after Red Zone's late rush fell just shy of Triple Expresso in the feature sprint.
Hutchison, who also had two third-placed runners from his three entries, shook his head ruefully after another night when close finishes went against him. Hutchison, who has now saddled 22 runners-up and 14 thirds this season but crucially is still two short of the magic 12-winner target set by the Jockey Club, said: 'It's typical of how the season has gone. My horses are running competitively but we're just not having the ounce of luck we need. Red Zone should definitely have won, and he would have done in another 30 metres.'
Hutchison also saw Jimmy The Greek overhauled in the last 50 metres of the sixth race as he went down by a short-head and a neck to Able Win and Arriba-Arriba, while My Chief finished with a late rattle in the last race but was beaten into third by My Honour and Victory Marble.
The trainer now has only Sunday's final meeting of the season to gain the two winners which should guarantee success on Tuesday in his appeal against the removal of his licence. 'Anyone can have a bad season, but things could have been very different for our stable,' Hutchison added. 'I have the support of my owners and I hope the Club will take into account how many of our horses have finished in the money.'
Moore's successes with Triple Expresso and Able Win provided another bonus for Anton Marcus, who stepped up in the absence of the suspended John Egan.
The South African, who has now had three winners in the last two meetings to boost his total to nine, said: 'Both rides worked out well, both had good draws and the gaps came at the right time, but Triple Expresso did well to win because the whip got knocked out of my hand in the last 100 metres. I'm very happy with how the season is finishing off for me. I didn't come here with any great expectations - I expect the worst and hope for the best. But I'm very grateful for the chance I've had here and I'm pleased with how it's gone.'
Feliz Coetzee also landed a double, winning on Wonderful Life in the second race then waiting until the final event to win on My Honour, a five-year-old with a future. Although five, last night's run was just the eighth of My Honour's career and his third win.
'He had a small problem with his knees before and that's why he hasn't raced much,' said winning trainer Derek Cruz. 'He is a lovely, relaxed horse, a great temperament and he handles wet or dry tracks the same. He is probably still open to some improvement too.'
Bond first benefited and then suffered as Splendid Patrol cocked his jaw and proved reluctant to go round the bends in the 1,170-metre fifth race. While Tony Culhane struggled with the wayward gelding, taking two runners across the course, the gaps opened up for Wendyll Woods to make use of his good draw on Bond and score a neck victory.
But the ensuing stewards' inquiry into Splendid Patrol's behaviour brought problems as heat stress caused Bond's legs to become shaky during the long wait for the result to be confirmed. He recovered quickly once cooled down in the stables, and trainer Geoff Lane said: 'He's all right now. I think the horse who drifted helped us, and the going was in his favour too as he is by Westminster, whose horses generally like cut in the ground.'
Delighted owner Lucy Wong Tsai Shiu Man added: 'This horse likes to win near the end of the season. He won his first race around this time last season, but he has only ever won on the all-weather and this was his first run at Happy Valley.'