City riders dominate Resimax Group Rapid Racing
The city team of riders, led by Lexus Melbourne Cup-winning jockeys Jye McNeil and Brett Prebble, emerged victorious against their country counterparts after seven thrilling races at the third Resimax Group Rapid Racing Raceday at Flemington on Friday.
Despite a late fightback by the country team, it was the top metropolitan riders who scored a 55 to 34 victory, giving them their third straight win in the annual city versus country feature.
The trophy was accepted by McNeil and the legendary Robert "Dipper" DiPierdomenico, who served as ambassador for the purple-sporting city team.
"It’s been an absolutely wonderful time, I think everyone here has had a great day,” the legendary AFL player said.
“The atmosphere’s great, it’s fantastic to see the young kids here with their parents. The jockeys really got into it and the hard work they do is incredible, the discipline is remarkable and all of them really were amazing.
“When you’re a winner, you have a chicken dinner and that’s what I’ll be having tonight.”
Points were awarded on a 4-3-2-1 basis throughout the card, with each team getting two wildcards in which they could double their points from any given race.
The opening Eynesbury Golf Plate (1000m) was one of two wildcard races for the city team and they capitalised by taking the full complement of 20 points on offer to them.
It was the youngest of the 14 riders, Matt Cartwright, who led the city team to victory in the 1000-metre maiden aboard debutant Madame Du Gast, giving Cranbourne trainer Trevor Rogers a first ever Flemington victory.
"We're over the moon," said Rogers. "It's such a special moment to get a winner at Flemington for Quilly Park.
"It's a shame that Zac Spain wasn't involved today as he's done a lot of the work with her but Zac spoke with Matt and filled him in a lot and he rode her exactly right."
McNeil on favourite Elite Icon, Josh Richards aboard Silly Salmon and Prebble with Smokin' Holly rounded out the city team's clean sweep in Race 1.
Team captain McNeil may have been aboard the beaten favourite in the first, but he made sure to convert in the Leap Real Estate Sprint (1200m) by partnering Treporti to victory for Danny O'Brien.
With the metropolitan team first and fourth and the country team second and third, points were split 5-5 between both teams, leading to a 25-5 lead to the city jockeys after race two.
A masterful Craig Newitt ride got the Paul and Tracey Templeton-trained Changing Tracks on the board for the country team in the third, the Resimax Group Jockeys Challenge Trophy (1200m).
The rural riders also claimed points for third and fourth thanks to Fortune Rose (Will Gordon) and Isolating (Patrick Moloney), reducing the margin to 16 points, with the city jockeys leading 28 to 12.
The second of the wildcard races for the city team almost went awry when Barney's Blaze, ridden by Damien Thornton, charged home to make it a photo in the Yum Sing House Sprint (1000m). However, Richards and the Ben and JD Hayes-trained Joseylin just got the verdict in a tight photo, giving the metro riders 10 points.
Nevertheless, with Thornton, Dean Holland (Glamour And Glory) and Will Gordon (Our John Boy) hitting the board for the country team, the second wildcard was somewhat wasted by the city riders as they only extended their margin by two points, leading 36 to 18.
It was country team captain Jarrod Fry to the fore in the Adelphi Hotel Plate (1100m) as Rob Blacker’s Yulong Knight defied his sweaty demeanour to fight on and score before then defying El Salto and Cartwright in the stewards' room.
With the protest dismissed and country riders first and third from metropolitan jockeys second and fourth, the rural team cut the lead back to 16 points once more, 40 to 24.
Notably, though, the last two races would both present as wildcard opportunities for the country team, which would give them their opportunity to claw back the margin. However, before the sixth was done, the contest would be over.
The first of the country wildcards, the Silverpoint Homes Sprint (1000m), bore little fruit for the country team as only Dean Holland - on Tony Nicconi in fourth - was able to reap any points behind the Craig Weeding-trained Big Day Out and Damian Lane.
Weeding, who on Thursday saddled up a winner at Tumut in the NSW Snowy Mountains, prepared his first Flemington winner with Big Day Out.
"It's fantastic," Weeding said. "I can think of four or five times that he's been beaten in a photo so I'm glad this is one that he's got.
"We don't get the opportunity to race here very often, let alone bringing a horse to town, so it's good that it panned out. It's a great concept."
That left the standings at 49 to 26 to the city team and made the last race statistically irrelevant as the metropolitan riders had too big a break.
"It's a bit bittersweet, isn't it?" Weeding mused. "I'm a country trainer through and through. Today was the first time I ever met Damian, I don't think I've ever used him before, but it doesn't matter, we got the win."
Moloney was able to steer the Nick Ryan-trained Grand Pope to a huge victory in the final race, the Tick Homes Dash (1200m), finishing ahead of three city riders to bring the final tally to 55-34.
Image caption: The winning city team celebrates their Rapid Racing success.