Saint-Martin shows why he's one of the best
Take a random poll of jockeys, ask them the best they've ridden against, and you might be surprised how many say Eric Saint-Martin, who crafted another strong argument for his nomination with a superb treble at headquarters yesterday.
Saint-Martin, of course, was bred to be a star jockey, being the son of an all-time great, Yves Saint-Martin. But pedigree will take you only so far, and Saint-Martin long ago stored enough credits to claim fame in his own right.
Yesterday, Saint-Martin was masterly in achieving an all-weather sprint double on Mainland Master for Andreas Schutz and Kimbo Kid for Tony Cruz. But it was his deft handling of Rice Field ($35.50) for John Moore in the day's feature event, the Class Two Beech Handicap, that drew the strongest praise.
'You have to put it down to just a gem of a ride,' Moore said. 'I was concerned about the barrier  before the race but Eric did a fantastic job getting the horse in and covered up. Fortunately, there was enough speed on early but full credit to Eric ... the horse was able to show the turn of foot which he just lacked the other day.'
Saint-Martin's ace card is the stalking ride, where he balances his mount, gets maximum cover for as long as possible and effectively 'coils the spring' in the hope that his horse will power home late.
In that context, Rice Field's win was vintage Saint-Martin, but the Frenchman later conceded that he was surprised how well the previously disappointing British racer had let down.
'I was pleased to see Olivier [Doleuze] go forward on Whatabob and that gave me the opportunity to get in and get cover on Rice Field,' he said. 'We had a good run, but I must admit he let down and sprinted much better than he did last start - a much better turn of foot this time.'
Earlier, Saint-Martin threaded his way through the field to take the Class Four over 1,200m on the all-weather with Mainland Master and later revealed he had given the gelding a wake-up call behind the barrier.
'I thought his coat looked beautiful in the paddock before the race, and horses that look well will almost always run well,' he said. 'Behind the barriers, I gave him a crack with the whip to remind him there was a job to do. I think that woke up him, and made him sharper out of the stalls. He travelled very nicely for me.'
The middle pin of Saint-Martin's treble was Kimbo Kid, who sweated buckets in the 30 minutes before the race but was still too accomplished for a competitive Class Three Field in the Cedar Handicap (race 6).
'He was sweating so much, I had the attendants scrape him down twice,' Saint-Martin smiled. 'Normally, you would think he had taken too much out of himself but apparently not.
'The speed was quite strong and I decided not to chase them with 130 pounds. We got some cover around the circle and when I pulled to the outside in the straight, he finished it off well.
'He has some heart, this horse. His personality is a bit quirky, but he has some heart.'