Less than 24 hours after watching his pride and joy, Who Shot Thebarman, seal his first Sydney victory in thrilling fashion in the A$2 million Gr.1 Sydney Cup (3200m), part-owner Dan O’Leary admits he is still walking on air.
O’Leary described the scenes in the aftermath of the win as quite surreal as he fielded the congratulations of hundreds of well-wishers in the Royal Randwick mounting yard.
“He’s a pretty special horse and has a huge fan club both in New Zealand and Australia,” he said.
“When the judge announced the result there was a massive cheer and we were just swamped by people congratulating us.
“It was a very surreal experience and one we have never had in Sydney before as that was the first time he has ever won here.
“To do it when he was having his fifth attempt at the race is amazing and I think it is a tribute to the horse and his trainer, Chris Waller.
“It’s just extraordinary.”
Despite having high hopes for at least a top three finish before the race, O’Leary admitted he wasn’t confident of a victory as he well remembered the disappointment of previous years.
“Chris had said to us he thought he could run in the top three but there might just have been one or two sharper than us,” he said.
“We were definitely hopeful but realistic in that he had been close before and the fact was he was a nine-year-old giving weight to most of the field. I think what played in his favour was the better track. In the past he had been on slow tracks in this race and that made it hard to carry the big weights. This time he had plenty of zip on the better track. You could see that when he started to make his move as he just zipped around them and was practically in front turning for home.
“He just kept grinding away and stuck his big head out at the right time. Like most Yamanin Vitals he’s tough and doesn’t give in.
“I think that is what makes him so popular with his fans as every time he races he gives it his all.
“It’s just a real celebration of courage and people love that. I know we certainly do.”
Despite the gelding’s advancing age O’Leary believes he may return to Melbourne in the spring for another shot at the world-famous Melbourne Cup. “He likes it in Melbourne and he just gets better with age so there’s no reason to think we couldn’t go back for another shot at the Cup,” he said.
“We know Chris will look after him and he will tell us whether it is an option or not. He likes it at Moonee Valley, so the Moonee Valley Cup would be the first target and then who knows what could happen after that.”
●Unforgotten’s uneasy start to the autumn is now a distant memory.
Diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia after running last in the Group One Surround Stakes last month, Chris Waller never lost faith in the three-year-old filly.
Sydney’s premier trainer was also unfazed when Hiyaam beat her in the Group One Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) and a fortnight later Unforgotten turned the tables in style at Randwick to claim the A$1m ATC Australian Oaks (2400m) in record time.
The $4 favourite levelled up to front runner Hiyaam at the 100m and cruised home by a length in 2:27.21, to eclipse Serenade Rose’s 2006 mark of 2.28:80.
Hugh Bowman bided his time and has now won five Australian Oaks, and the last three in a row after previously saluting on New Zealand raiders Sofia Rosa and Bonneval.
“We won’t be rushing to step her up to a Caulfield Cup or a Melbourne Cup,” Waller said.
– NZ Racing Desk, AAP