Taverner gets his way to be toast of the town again
It only took 16 months, 13 starts and some self-correction from the handicapper, but the once-upon-a-time boom horse Taverner made it back to the winner's circle.
Given a brilliant ride from the 14 gate by Zac Purton, Taverner scrambled home over Fionn's Dragon in a finish that had Purton calling for the smelling salts.
'I've been beaten in some very close photos lately and when I lifted my head after the line, I thought it had happened again but I was due to get the bob in,' the Australian said.
When trained by David Hall, Taverner was punished for easy victories over Classic Navigator and Shy Baldy in his first two starts, with ratings hikes of 16 and then 14 points in late 2009.
Even when defeat became his constant companion thereafter, Taverner's handicap rating hovered in the mid-80s for most of a year before drifting down again only in the last three months to a figure of 74 for yesterday's event. 'He's a classic case of a horse who was simply raised too quickly for beating moderate horses easily when he was younger,' said trainer Paul O'Sullivan. 'It's taken all this time to get down to a mark where he can win, he got a sensational ride from Zac and still won by a cigarette paper, so I hope they take that into account in the rehandicaps this time.'
O'Sullivan had tried Taverner at 1,600m recently in an effort to conjure something from the five-year-old, but admitted it didn't work.
'I thought he wanted the longer trip - I was probably wrong,' he said. 'He was leading and getting fired up at 1,600m, so we came back to 1,400m and my instructions were specifically not to lead from gate 14 because he would have to work too hard. I told Zac to just take the first hole he finds and he got cover and it fell into place.
'For a horse his age, he's only had 15 starts and can still make a few mistakes. Putting the blinkers on him at the end of last season gave the horse some confidence among horses, but he really did need the relief in the handicaps to see him win again,' he added.
The victory saw O'Sullivan continue to chip away at the season after a terrible start, moving to seven wins now and with four yards behind him.