Racing: Trainer finally crunches Derby

By Mike Dillon

The extraordinary rise of Gingernuts had many punters eating their words.
Opie Bosson on Gingernuts heads off Michael Dee on Rising Red in the $1 million Derby at Ellerslie. Photo / Trish Dunell
Opie Bosson on Gingernuts heads off Michael Dee on Rising Red in the $1 million Derby at Ellerslie. Photo / Trish Dunell

It was mid-morning yesterday when Stephen Autridge got home to Matamata from Saturday night's Derby-winning celebration dinner in Auckland.

He took off his suit coat and said: "Now we're square."

If revenge and redemption are best served cold, as the Italians swear, then the 36-year wait Autridge has had to endure to win a Derby must have made his Gingernut moment at Ellerslie on Saturday simply delicious.

The superb horseman is not an "if only" type - he just gets on with the job - but he has hankered for Derby glory since 1981 when he should have won the glamour race on champion colt Altitude.

The handsome Altitude was a length better than any of New Zealand's 3-year-olds that season and had the Derby field shot to pieces when he suffered a massive bleeding attack in the home straight from which he died 10 minutes later.

"He was a hell of a horse Altitude. We won the 2000 Guineas by eight lengths and I didn't even have to show him the whip.

"So I was robbed of that one and I've always wanted it back - badly." As recently as four weeks back Autridge believed this again wasn't to be his Derby year. Gingernuts was known around the Te Akau stable as just a handy horse that often did things wrong. No Derby there.

Then came the Avondale Guineas. Gingernuts gave the entire field five lengths start and swept past in the closing stages for a relatively soft victory. Don't worry, we were not the only ones gobsmacked.

Autridge, training partner Jamie Richards, Te Akau principal David Ellis and a whole bunch of syndicate owners were equally staggered.

Two ways to look at that.

Was the win circumstantial because of a rain-affected track, or had the 3-year-old improved 10 lengths, which horses almost never do in a matter of weeks.

Ellis, who manages the syndicate, and purchased Gingernuts as a 2-year-old for $42,500 at the 2015 New Zealand Bloodstock Ready to Run Sale, has been buying and selling horses for 35 years, been involved in the Sport of Kings for even longer, but the emotion of securing the first New Zealand Derby for Te Akau was clearly evident.

"It's a very emotional moment. It was a terrific run, I'm just so thrilled for all the team, thrilled for Jamie [Richards] and Stephen [Autridge] as they've done a fantastic job training this horse and Opie just rode a sensational race," said Ellis. "It is an unbelievably happy occasion for us all.

"Jamie is a really top young guy and worked so well with Stephen and it's just a great team effort. All the team has done a brilliant job."

Bosson, who had scored a group three victory for Te Akau just one race earlier on Splurge, was quick to acknowledge some luck had played a vital part in the win after nearly colliding with Savile Row.

"I went to go inside Savile Row at the 600m as he was hanging out but he ducked back in," he explained.

"I then committed to go outside but he ran off again. But I was travelling pretty good at the time and knew I had a lot of horse under me.

"He started laying in down the straight but he did it easy in the end as he was having a bit of a gaze at the finish."

Bosson, winner of four of the 10 races on the programme, dedicated the race to Stephen Autridge - his godfather.

"Stevie has been great to me. Whenever I've been down or something has gone wrong Stephen has been the first to call and I've always appreciated that."

Bosson began his career at Te Akau and this win was highly appropriate. If you measure a jockey's ability in lengths, Bosson is our best rider by several lengths. The programme going forward is likely to include the A$2m Australian Derby at Randwick or the Queensland Derby in mid-winter.

"The way the weather has been Sydney might be a good option because he doesn't mind rain on the track," said Autridge.

- NZ Herald

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