By sports editor Russell Bennett
On a picture-perfect day when the inaugural Sportsbet ‘Kangaroo Race’ captured the imagination of the racegoers along the home straight at Tynong’s Racing.com Park, it was almost fitting that the winning jockey of the $300,000 Pakenham Cup stood high in the irons as he crossed the line for a famous win.
To say Etah James was a rank outsider heading into the big race is one hell of an understatement – the seven-year-old Matt Cumani-trained mare started at a $61 chance to take the honours.
But 20-year-old apprentice jockey Fred Kersley stormed home down to straight to snare a famous win – the biggest of his career to date.
He stood high in the irons before he crossed the line, drawing a fine, but that won’t faze Kersley in the wake of his milestone victory one-and-a-half lengths ahead of the heavily-backed Secret Blaze.
Speaking to Racing.com’s Nigel Carmody in the mounting yard just after the race, Kersley spoke about what went through his mind in the race’s final stages.
“I had to use a bit of her in the beginning of the race to sit outside Runaway (which faded to finish 11th), but in all honesty we had it quite easy down the back, and this horse came from the (3200-metres) Sandown Cup beaten 1.4 lengths, to here today at 2500 (metres) I thought I needed to be getting going early, and speaking to the boss on the way here he gave me a fair bit of confidence because this horse was tip-top for today.”
Kersley also spoke about the significance of the win in the context of his own career to date.
“It’s my biggest achievement,” he said.
“I’ve never won a black-type race, or a Listed. To get that, it means a lot to me.
“I didn’t think I stood up too high in the irons, but maybe I did.”
Cumani – the son of famous English Derby winner Luca, and brother of renowned racing expert Francesca – couldn’t be at Racing.com Park to see the win in the flesh, but his assistant trainer Andrew Bobbin spoke glowingly about the win, and Kersley’s ride.
“I hate to give Fred too many compliments because he’s a cocky little bugger, but before the race he said ‘I’m going to make this a genuine test’.
“We knew Runaway would go forward, but he said ‘I’m going to make sure he’s not going to get anything cheap and I’m going to make a real race of it’, and if you look back at the Sandown Cup at the corner she looked like she was gone and then coming out she was only beaten by 1.4 so she’s one of those horses where you think she’s gone, but she’ll come again.”
Kersley was fined $750 for standing high in the irons as he crossed the line, and suspended for six future meetings due to excessive use of the whip.
He also piloted home another Cumani-trained winner earlier on Pakenham Cup day – Future Score in Race 5, the Hanson Handicap.
Also on Cup day, Phillip Stokes – an on-course trainer at Racing.com Park – had the quinella when Snitzkraft saluted in the $100,000 Schweppes David Bourke Memorial Handicap in an absolute thriller over stablemate More Than Exceed, by less than half a length.
The race holds a special place in the heart of those involved with the Pakenham Racing Club.
Mr Bourke was just 19 when he replaced his father as the Pakenham Racing Club’s secretary, and was the youngest person to ever assume the role of secretary of a Victorian race club – a record that still stands today. He had a lifelong involvement with the Pakenham Racing Club, and his legacy remains.
Following the race, Stokes said he wasn’t sure which one of his two horses he should’ve been barracking for 200 metres from home.
“I was just rapt they were both there,” he told Carmody and Racing.com.
“It was a super finish.
“(But) Snitzkraft is the better horse – coming off a long layoff (nine months from a tendon issue).
“I’m just really happy to have him back, and I’ve got to give a special thanks to all my team here at Pakenham. They’ve done an amazing job, and it’s a credit to them.”
Stokes also spoke about the pride he has in the Racing.com Park facility.
“It’s a credit to the club – they’ve got a good crowd here, the local community really gets behind it, and it’s a great day.”
Snitzkraft’s victory marked the fourth this week for red-hot apprentice jockey, Teo Nugent.
For much more on Pakenham Cup Day, pick up a copy of next week’s Pakenham-Berwick Gazette – out first thing Wednesday morning.