Racing: Plastic fantastic for Ichiban

By Mike Dillon

Ichiban hugs the new plastic running rail on the way to winning the Great Northern Foal Stakes. Photo / Trish Dunell
Ichiban hugs the new plastic running rail on the way to winning the Great Northern Foal Stakes. Photo / Trish Dunell

Leith Innes attributes an Auckland Racing Club initiative as responsible for him winning Saturday's $50,000 Graeme Thomson Jewellers Great Northern Foal Stakes on Ichiban.

For the first time the ARC erected a plastic running rail against the heavy steel picket fence that serves as the outside running rail at Ellerslie.

Jockey Innes says the new rail not only helped Ichiban win, it prevented what could have been a nasty accident with the youngster colliding with the metal fence.

When the field swung into the home straight, Ichiban moved towards the outside fence, which looked to be a tactical manoeuvre by Innes.

"I swear I didn't take him out there, he just decided that's where he was going."

Pressed almost hard against the new rail, Ichiban clung to a narrow lead over the joint favourite Quantum and a couple of times appeared to lose focus.

"At least twice he thought about taking on the rail," said a relieved Innes.

"You'd rather collide with a plastic rail than a metal fence."

Ichiban managed to narrowly avoid striking the rail and grabbed a nose decision over Quantum.

"He's still green, but he's a very talented horse," said Innes.

The race brought back memories of four years ago when Cambridge filly Rollout The Carpet won the group one Diamond Stakes at Ellerslie, running so close to the outside metal fence that her two near-side legs were actually in the soil-covered drain and she brushed rose bushes as James McDonald produced a piece of magic to land her home a half-head, nose winner over Warhorse and Silk Pins.

Unfortunately, Rollout The Carpet was relegated to second for having crossed the entire face of the field to get to the outside rail in the home straight. Compensation was gained when Rollout The Carpet came back at three and won the group one 1000 Guineas.

The club's racing manager Craig Baker said the outside rail will remain for each of Ellerslie's winter meetings, during which horses are frequently going wide in the home straight searching for the best footing.

Quantum was similarly brave in finishing second.

"I thought the winner was going to run away from us, but my bloke stuck to it gamely," said rider Craig Grylls.

Close up third was Church Road and almost alongside was Hello M'Lady.

- NZ Herald

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