High five: Hugh without peer on track he ‘couldn’t stand’
Champion jockey Hugh Bowman turned a minor Sydney Saturday meeting on a cold, windy autumn day into a memorable afternoon with five brilliant winning rides at the Randwick Kensington racecourse.
Bowman in peerless form with wins on Yonkers, Dirty Work, Rocha Clock, Hightail and Phaistos.
After riding his fifth winner, the champion jockey made the surprising statement that Kensington was not exactly his favourite racetrack - until Saturday.
"I couldn't stand the joint before today," Bowman said. "I think the wind is playing a big part and it's making it hard for those forward runners to sustain their speed.
"Ï've had the wide draws, I've had horses that get back and get home and they're all good rides. I've had good rides today so conditions suit. There is no magic about what I'm doing, I've just had the right horses with conditions to suit."
There are plenty who will suggest it was Bowman's "magic" that enabled the likes of Rocha Clock and Phaistos, in particular, to win their races.
Bowman then climbed into the saddle for the final event, the Schweppes Handicap (1550m) on the favourite Juventus ($3.80).
He was riding for history as no jockey had ridden six winners on a Sydney racetrack since Jim Cassidy achieved the feat at Rosehill in 1987.
Bowman seemed set to score again when Juventus ranged up alongside Wild About Her and looked likely to win but the lightly-weighted mare refused to be headed.
Wild About Her, ridden by another Hall of Fame jockey Glen Boss, had denied Bowman his "six-pack" by a mere margin of a long head.
The two jockeys are close friends and Boss revealed what he said to Bowman after the pair crossed the finish line: "How does it feel to run second?" Boss said.
"The Bowman family were over the back there cheering and yelling out.
"We get on very good with the girls and we'll give them a bit of a cheerio, but I'm sure they won't mind me beating Hughie, he's had a great day.''
Bowman's five wins equals his career-best win haul on a metropolitan track. The jockey even had an inkling that he was in for a big day, his manager, Bryan Haskins said.
"Hughie rang on Friday night to tell me he liked his book of rides for the 'Kenso' - and he never usually does that,'' Haskins said. "He said he had some very good chances and would need to be on his game. He certainly did that.''
Bowman, ever the perfectionist, found reason to be critical of his winning ride on Hightail in the Quincy Seltzer Handicap (1250m). Bowman declared if he had been more patient, then Hightail would have won by a far more convincing margin.
"We had an awkward draw and I was a bit concerned because I felt that Hilo might have been a way further forward than I was,'' Bowman said.
"But he was a bit slow and out and I was able to get onto his back. Then Tim Clark (on Improvement) flushed me out way earlier than I would have liked.
"I tried to be smart and get behind the favourite and it didn't work out but I had the class of horse to get me out of that. Full credit to him but if I had been a bit more patient he would have won with a bit of authority.''
In a thrilling finish, the Team Snowden-trained Hightail ($7) held off Trumbull ($6.50) to win by a short neck with Hilo ($3 favourite) a head away third. The placegetters gapped their rivals with more than four lengths to Into The Abyss.
Hightail, a three-year-old gelding by Written Tycoon, had won the Listed Gosford Guineas last summer, defeating subsequent Group 2 Arrowfield Sprint winner Splintex into third placing.
But after Hightail finished fourth behind the outstanding Alligator Blood in the Magic Millions 3yo Guineas, trainers Peter and Paul Snowden made the decision to deliberately miss the Sydney autumn carnival so he would be at his peak for the Brisbane winter.
"Hightail is a handy horse but probably just short of top grade. He is probably a Group 3-Listed class of horse but he is lightly raced and still improving,'' Peter Snowden said.
"He goes to the Gold Coast in two weeks to run in the Ken Russell Classic on the Gold Coast and then on to the Fred Best Classic.''
Snowden said Hightail has an opportunity to command a Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap start in June but the trainer revealed he is considering aiming the young sprinter at the Ramornie Handicap at Grafton later in winter.
"We will have a look at the Stradbroke but he would need to be really impressive in the earlier races,'' Snowden said. "I actually think we could freshen him up and go to for the Ramornie Handicap at Grafton - I feel that could be a great race for him.''
Bowman completed his memorable day when Godolphin's Phaistos charged home to get up in the final stride to win the TAB Handicap (1400m).
The champion jockey said Phaistos deserved that win after he ambushed that horse late on stablemate Ranier two weeks ago. "I owed it to him because I took it from him in the shadows of the post last start,'' Bowman said.