Racing: Hall of Famer pops up at Trentham

Visiting hoop Robert Thompson.
Visiting hoop Robert Thompson.

Australian Racing Hall of Fame jockey Robert Thompson will break new ground when he takes his first Wellington Cup ride aboard Queenslander Pop 'N' Scotch at Trentham today.

Thompson, 58, has achieved most deeds in racing over a 44-year career in the saddle but he has never ridden at Trentham and has yet to ride a winner in New Zealand.

However, Thompson has had only a handful of rides in New Zealand over the years and last rode in the country in the Bayer Classic (now the Levin Classic) back in the 80s.

"I've been to New Zealand a few times but haven't had any success. It would be nice to do that in a race as important as the Wellington Cup," Thompson said.

"I've been long-time friends with Liam Birchley, who trains Pop 'N' Scotch. He's a good mate of mine and he's been very loyal to me.

"He asked if I'd like to go to New Zealand to ride this horse and I said I was only too happy to do so.

"This horse ran second in the Queensland Cup over two miles and that's his go. He's got no class but he'll run the distance.

"Liam said it wasn't a vintage field for the Cup this year and that's what convinced him to go. It sounds like there's a bit of rain about and that will help him as well."

The 6-year-old has won four of his 37 starts and has finished second in the Queensland Cup (3200m) at the Sunshine Coast for the past two years.

TAB bookmakers had Pop 'N' Scotch at $24 after he drew barrier 10.

Inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2015, Thompson is Australia's most prolific jockey, riding in more than 28,000 races, winning more than 4200 of them.

Meanwhile, Wildflower could find herself in elite company later this season if she continues her sharp progression at Trentham today. The 4-year-old mare will chase her third straight win when she tackles the Douro Cup (1600m) and trainer Graham Richardson can see no reason why she can't keep the sequence going.

"She's come through her last win very well. She's just working her life out now. When she won at Awapuni, she probably got to the front a bit earlier than we wanted to and got a bit lost, but she got to the line strongly at Ellerslie the other day," he said.

"She's still working a few things out but one day she'll be a nice staying mare, certainly one good enough for black-type company.

"We think she'll run well again. She's in on a nice weight and she'll be suited by a bit of rain and the big, roomy track."

Wildflower could earn herself a shot at the Cuddle Stakes (1600m) at Trentham on March 17 with a bold performance. That race in turn could lead to a start in the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes (1600m) at Te Aroha three weeks later.

- NZ Racing Desk

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