Jones was greeted in the birdcage by some of the excited owners of Lasting Touch as he returned to scale after winning the Bayleys Nationals 7s 1560 on the six-year-old mare at odds of almost 20/1.
Lasting Touch had won just once in 20 previous starts, that win being at Te Awamutu last April, and she had disappointed more than she had pleased her connections.
“I’ve sacked her twice, but the owners just wanted to give her one more chance,” said her Te Rapa trainer Damon Anaki. “This was going to be her last race and she goes out and does that.”
Lasting Touch is raced by Anaki’s family and friends and the cheering that went on from the stands as rider Reese Jones got her home by a head from Cops ‘N’ Coyote was one usually reserved for a hot favourite.
That excitement spilt down to the birdcage awaiting Jones to unsaddle the Golan mare and it was a reminder of the joy racing can bring.
“I can’t believe she’s won,” said Anaki as he was swamped with congratulations from family members. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with her now.”
Anaki, a former jockey, has pottered around training a horse or two over the years and had one previous winner before Lasting Touch entered his stable.
As well as her maiden win, Lasting Touch had been placed on seven occasions before today’s upset win. The most recent of those placings was last August when runner-up over 1400 metres at Waverley.
Jones gave the Lasting Touch crew some hope after the race. “She just wants the sting out of the ground and to be given some room,” he said. “She just keeps going.”
Walker, over from Melbourne on a busman’s holiday, kicked home three winners today, including two for the Matamata training partnership of John Sargent and Hayden Allen. His winners for the Matamata trainers came aboard My Mestari and Svavarsson and he completed the day when taking the final event on Conchita for Cambridge trainers Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young.
My Mestari’s win, like that of Lasting Touch, pleased a large group of people as she is raced by the Rewa Cos Syndicate along with Sargent.
She had hinted a win was close at hand when placed in four of her previous eight starts and lasted best today to win by a length.
Svavarsson, also part-owned by Sargent, kicked on best to record his first win in four starts and Walker believes he could develop into a handy stayer.
“He’s going out for a spell now and when he comes back her could be all right,” said Walker. “He wants to go further than today’s distance (1560m).”
Another winner headed for the spelling paddock is Fast ‘N’ Gorgeous, who also broke through in her fourth start. She won by a short neck and wasn’t pressured over the final stages by rider Craig Grylls.
“It was a good effort today because she stumbled at the start and lost a front plate,” said trainer Graham Richardson. “She hasn’t got the best action but she’s got ability.”
Bridget Grylls added to a successful association her family has had with the Sanders family over the years when winning on Bouvier, prepared by Graeme Sanders.
Grylls’ brother, Craig, served his apprenticeship at the Sanders’ stable and both her father, Gary, and late grandfather, John, kicked home many winners for Sanders and his late father, Bill.