Racing: How to place yourself in the dog box

By Mike Dillon

Kick Back gave a faultless jumping display to win the Pakuranga Hunt Cup at Ellerslie on Saturday. Photo / Race Images
Kick Back gave a faultless jumping display to win the Pakuranga Hunt Cup at Ellerslie on Saturday. Photo / Race Images

We called Cambridge trainer Craig Thornton at home yesterday, but he was down town buying a dozen tea towels.

Thornton will be doing the dishes for at least the next month for his life partner Samantha Logan following the aftermath of the $50,000 Harrison Lane Hurdles at Ellerslie on Saturday.

Thornton gave evidence against Logan's winner Ngatira Gold, the end result being Ngatira Gold was relegated to third and Thornton's horse Nancho Lass was promoted from second to first.

Thornton looked a touch sheepish over his glass of champagne in the Winners' Circle, but explained, "I had to do my best for my owners, but it's not the way you like to see it happen".

"That's horse racing though and I believe Samantha's horse has a great chance in the Great Northern two weeks from now and I hope things go her way in the big one."

Thornton was keen on the chances of Nancho Lass when the surface provided excellent winter footing. "I told Charlie [Studd] she would be hard to beat when I legged him on."

He is not so fussed about the Great Northern chances of Nancho Lass.

"There has to be a question mark on her coping with the extra distance."

Ngatira Gold lost the race when he lugged out sharply into the line of Nancho Lass and Just Got Home. Counting against Ngatira Gold was that rider Richard Culley did not stop riding to straighten his horse.

Thornton, a great jumps rider in his day, gave evidence to that effect at the inquiry, but said later: "It's always a difficult call to stop riding or not in the last 200m."

• Almost invariably you will see jumps jockeys take their mounts to look over the first fence to be jumped moments before the start. It's a confidence thing.

It's barely worthwhile taking Kick Back, gallant winner of the Pakuranga Hunt Cup on Saturday.

She's not big enough to see over the fences at Ellerslie.

"If you were standing the other side of the fence all you would see of her is her ears," says in-form jumps jockey Shaun Fannin.

How Kick Back manages to find the strength at the end of a tough race - and Saturday's was gruelling - you have to wonder. She was possibly the smallest horse racing at Ellerslie on the day.

But as someone once said: "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."

Kick Back epitomises that line and she has that other attribute you often look for in mares - the ability to be a total bitch.

"Watch her, she'll kick your eyes out if she gets a chance," said owner Sam Trotter, avoiding the little mare's hind legs as Fannin removed the saddle in the birdcage. "She didn't get her name by accident; she's kicked me plenty of times."

Fannin rode Kick Back with infinite patience. She was last approaching the Hill the last time and looked only a place chance coming down the Hill with just two fences to go.

"I hadn't anticipated the others would get so far in front of us coming down the Hill," said Fannin.

"But I knew she had a terrific sprint and she's got a heart like a lion." Fannin drove Kick Back between horses at the 250m and in a tough last 150m struggle, she narrowly out-lasted Jack Ramanov.

Kick Back ran Saturday on the minimum weight of 65kg and is liable for a maximum rise of 1.5kg for the Great Northern.

Jack Romanov's trainer Mark Brooks moderated his disappointment with: "At least he won't get re-rated in weight for the Northern".

- NZ Herald

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