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Ad French Moon winning the Stayers Finall at Moonee Valley in March 2022. (George Sal/Racing Photos)

Wilde and Ryan eager to see Moon rise for Lester

13 July 2023 Written by Brad Bishop – Racing & Sports

Gerry Ryan is not what Symon Wilde would call an interfering owner, but if ever Ryan was to offer the Warrnambool trainer some ‘advice’ it would have been ahead of this Saturday’s Flemington meeting.

It could have been something along the line of, make sure French Moon is ready for the Deane Lester Flemington Cup (2800m).

The Victoria Racing Club reinstated the Flemington Cup three years ago, but this year’s event is the first with the Deane Lester prefix, which was added after Lester lost his short-but-brave battle with cancer earlier this year.

Lester was instrumental in getting the Flemington Cup revived after a 171-year year hiatus.

The popular Lester also managed Ryan’s racing interests and the leading businessman’s Limerick Lane colours of blue and white checks with green sleeves and cap will be carried by French Moon in this Saturday’s 2800-metre event.

Ryan is in Europe for the Tour de France, meaning he will not be trackside on Saturday, and while he did not force Wilde to run the gelding in the race, the trainer is glad he has got there on his merits.

Gerry Ryan with John Allen in his colours after Fifty Stars won the 2020 Group 1 TAB Australian Cup at Flemington. (Brett Holburt/Racing Photos)

“It’s just happened naturally that he’s there, we didn’t really target it,” Wilde said.

“But with Gerry’s connection to Deane and John Sutcliffe, who is the other partner in the horse, being good friends with Gerry, it’d mean a lot (to win it).”

Wilde knows first-hand how much of an asset Lester, arguably Australia’s most respected form analyst prior to his death, was to any ownership team.

He only trained a few horses for him, but one was a consistent gelding that Lester considered a favourite among the many horses he was involved in.

“But with Gerry’s connection to Deane and John Sutcliffe, who is the other partner in the horse, being good friends with Gerry, it’d mean a lot (to win it).” - Symon Wilde

Constant Force was identified after two mediocre starts and bought by Lester, who thought Wilde’s seaside operation would suit the son of Jeune.

He went on to race 46 times for them for 11 wins, including a Saturday race at The Valley, a Kyneton Cup, Colac Cup, Stawell Cup and Ballan Cup at Geelong and almost $300,000 in stakes.

“Deane identified the horse and said, ‘I reckon we can buy this, do you want to have a go at it’,” Wilde recalled.

“He came down here but was just battling and, Deane was like, ‘I’m not sure this is the horse (for us)’, but I said, ‘if we can get him to settle a bit better we’ll be right’, which we did and then he had a wonderful prep.

“He won at The Valley, he won the Stawell Cup, he won the Colac Cup, he won the Kyneton Cup and we took him to Darwin for the Cup. We had a great time with him.”

Lester celebrating The Quarterback’s victory in the 2016 Group 1 Newmarket Handicap with fellow connections. (Racing Photos)

Wilde said Lester, who raced Constant Force with a group of friends including fellow form analyst Warren Huntly, was central to his success.

“Deane and Warren, they placed the horse beautifully, which was a weight off my shoulders,” he said.

“They’d tell you what races they thought would suit and what riders. It was always a discussion, it was never like, ‘(you have to) do this’, but to be able to get their advice with all their experience and expertise was great.

“That horse, he won good money, he was no champion, but we had some fun and I reckon he was placed really well, which was credit to Deane and Warren.”

Lester would have loved to have tried to plot a path to Saturday’s $175,000 race with French Moon.

He considered him a stayer of promise at the back end of summer last year, when he strung together three wins and a second from four runs, including victory in the Summer Stayers Final (2500m) at The Valley.

But the son of Puissance De Lune, who was also raced by Ryan, lost his way in his first three starts this season.

“We thought he ran really well at Flemington and as soon as he ran well enough there, the next logical option was this race.”

A return to form at his hometown carnival, coupled with back-to-back third placings, prompted Wilde to have a crack at the Banjo Paterson Final (2600m) at Flemington on July 1, with his fifth placing serving as a Flemington Cup audition.

“He was struggling for a bit of form, but he ran quite well at the (Warrnambool) Carnival and was then placed twice and ran quite well but just had small fields and things against him,” Wilde said.

“So, we thought we’d give him a try in a bigger field with a truer tempo and see if he measures up down in the weights and he did.

“We thought he ran really well at Flemington and as soon as he ran well enough there, the next logical option was this race.”

There is a further link to Lester through French Moon’s rider Beau Mertens, son of the late Peter Mertens, who Lester managed for a period of his successful riding career.

Mertens is not the only rider who will sport Ryan’s colours at Flemington on Saturday, with Harry Coffey to don them before taking the sea aboard Normandy Bridge, who will chase a fourth-straight win in the $150,000 VRC Member Clint Jellis Trophy (2000m).

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