Racing: Weight a worry for Atomic Force

By Mike Dillon

Nash Rawiller (outer) takes Atomic Force to the line in the Railway Stakes on New Year's Day. He will be going for the Telegraph double today. Photo / Dean Purcell
Nash Rawiller (outer) takes Atomic Force to the line in the Railway Stakes on New Year's Day. He will be going for the Telegraph double today. Photo / Dean Purcell

Australian Dean Watt is the sort of bloke that could send you broke.

Not from his thoroughbred Dynamic Syndications, they are going very well, but from having to call him on a cellphone.

To say Watt can talk is like saying the All Blacks will probably be keen to win the next Rugby World Cup.

Watt doesn't declare it, but at some stage he must have talked for Australia. Olympic gold.

He provided one of the best podium speeches ever after Atomic Force won the $200,000 Railway at Ellerslie on January 1 - despite its length - and you can expect nothing less if the classy Australian sprinter backs up and takes today's $300,000 Berkett Telegraph at Trentham.

It took six minutes of jokes before Watt got into the serious Atomic Forces stuff when we called while he was packing his socks and shirts at his Sydney home yesterday, preparing to fly to Wellington.

And when he did get serious, it was sudden and it had surprising depth.

Atomic Force is the $2.50 TAB favourite for today's big race, but you wouldn't have guessed that if you'd listened to Watt's reasoning in isolation yesterday.

"Look, I'm worried about this race," he said as he put his serious cap on. "This is an observation, not a complaint, but last year Mufhasa was rated a 107 horse and carried 56.5kg to win the Telegraph and we're on 107 this time with 59kg."

Without getting into that matter - which will have a logical explanation - it would be difficult to make a case against the point that Atomic Force deserves his 59kg.

"I thought he was a moral [certainty] in his first run [Railway], but I don't think this race is put in, take out."

Concerning Watt most is the weight relativity between his horse and emerging sprinter Durham Town, who had 57kg in the Railway to Atomic Force's 58kg and this time has 53.5kg compared to the 59kg.

"He's drawn No 1 and I'm more worried about him than I am about the mare [second favourite Guiseppina].

"He can get a cosy run behind the leaders, he's going to be a hard horse to hold out."

Trainer Darren Smith had a slightly more measured approach.

Smith arrived in Wellington midweek and liked what he saw of Atomic Force.

"Shane [Treweek] and the whole Treweek family have done a terrific job with this horse since he's been in New Zealand.

"I watched him do a trot and canter and and he's very bright, very, very well."

Yesterday, Smith walked the Trentham track and was less than delighted with what he saw.

"The track is quite hard, it's a bit like the main road."

But the Broadmeadow horseman does not believe that will prevent Atomic Force from producing his best, even though some of his best form has been with rain around. He certainly handled the wet track beautifully at Ellerslie on Railway day.

"He's had 13 starts on good surfaces for nine wins, so you can't say he's going to be affected."

Even if the Trentham track jars up Atomic Force's joints during the race, Smith said it won't be a problem because the horse is being spelled immediately.

Dean Watt couldn't be shaken from his belief that Durham Town was the danger, not Guiseppina.

The high class mare has an extremely wide gate to overcome, but if James McDonald can get her a smother she could be sailing home fast down the outside with her light weight.

"I've heard the last 100m at Trentham is heartbreak hill," said Watt.

If the race doesn't break Watt's heart the celebrations might.

"I got to bed very late after the Railway and was sick the next morning and this time Darren and I are on a 6.00am flight back to Sydney because the Inglis sale starts Sunday morning."

But he won't be cutting any acceptance speech short.

* So, we left off Bawalaksana from the tiny list of those that have successfully completed the Railway/Telegraph double in the same year in the last quarter century. It wasn't really much of a blue because it shouldn't be in the record book.

For the record - Australian mare Dantelah actually beat Bawalaksana in the Railway at Ellerslie, but placings were reversed. It goes down as one of the worst judicial decisions in memory. Of course, it was right at the end of the good old bad days in New Zealand racing when judicial panels were made up of non-professional members of that particular racing club committee.

It is these days difficult to believe that that farcical system lasted until as recently as a decade ago.

Imagine the incredulous expression Adam came up with when he spotted Eve for the first time.

Multiply that by a factor of four and you have something close to the demeanour of New South Wales trainer Paul Perry when he walked out of the Ellerslie judicial room having just been told Dantelah had the Railway torn from her grasp.

In Australia if you swapped jockeys at the 800m and weighed in 2kg light you'd only just lose a group one race. To take the Railway off Dantelah for what barely constituted interference bordered on the ridiculous. Bawalaksana had Chris Munce on his back and Dantelah was ridden by Damien Oliver, a vastly experienced - and extremely fair - jockey who would never take an action close to the winning post - where this incident occurred - that would cost him a group one race.

A group one victory for a mare is worth a fortune. Dantelah eventually got her group one success in Australia and in doing so became the first winner at that level for recently deceased New Zealand stallion Volksraad.

The postscript of this sad saga came in the weighing room after the Railway presentation.

Paul Perry was still so stunned he was practically glued to the spot. Bawalaksana's trainer Dave O'Sullivan walked up and, almost looking embarrassed, offered Perry the Railway dress rug.

Perry's expression changed to something much darker than incredulous as he swung on one heel and disappeared for fear of saying something he might later regret.

Yes, Bawalaksana completed the Railway/Telegraph double in the one January. Next time you need reference to it look in the Believe It Or Not section.

- NZ Herald

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