By David Nagel
Pakenham trainer Peter Moody and gun jockey Luke Nolen have shared experiences that only a rare few get to experience.
The pair, quite literally, took the racing world by storm in 2012 when Nolen steered Moody’s champion sprinter Black Caviar to victory in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Ascot in England.
Very few racing partnerships – trainer and jockey – get to enjoy the satisfaction of taking on the world’s best and bringing them down on their own soil.
Racing enthusiasts will never forget the win of Better Loosen Up in the 1990 Japan Cup – the biggest international win as a partnership for trainer David Hayes and stable-jockey Michael Clarke.
Chautauqua’s win in the 2016 Chairman’s Sprint in Hong Kong was a triumph for the Hawkes team and jockey Tommy Berry, while Buffering’s win, in the same year, in the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai was a career highlight for Queensland-trainer Robert Heathcote and his top-hoop Damien Brown.
Not all of Australia’s best horses have had the opportunity to do so, but horse racing is a global sport so to be deemed the best in the world you have to beat the best on their own soil.
While not at those illustrious heights, the Moody/Nolen combination may be ready to bounce back to Group-1 glory after Lightsaber scored an impressive victory in the $300,000 Group-3 Caulfield Guineas Prelude (1400m) at the Heath on Saturday.
The exciting Zoustar/Dream Cirque colt, overcame a wide-run early to settle just off the pace and forge clear for an impressive victory. It was his fourth in eight starts and first since winning the $200,000 Group-2 Sires Produce Stakes in the autumn.
Moody and Nolen teamed up to win the 2010 Caulfield Guineas with Anacheeva off the same preparation, while Nolen piloted Wonderful World to victory for Bart Cummings in 2006…after also winning the prelude.
“I’ve only won the prelude twice, and both of them went on to win it (The Guineas), so hopefully lightning strikes for a third time,” Nolen told racing.com after the race.
“I think he’s still on the up too.
“He had the two runs here, he didn’t do a lot at his first run but I was really pleased with what he did in the second part of his last run here.”
Nolen said despite working early, Lightsaber relaxed well and gave every indication he would run out a strong 1600 metres.
“We had a race shape that suited to us a bit more today, and the really pleasing part was I asked him to fire away and he came back underneath me…I rode him on a bit of cotton,” he said.
“So going to the mile doesn’t hold any fears for us, hopefully he’s on an upward spiral and we’re three weeks away from the final and hopefully everything falls into line for that.”
Nolen said it was fantastic to reunite with Moody for another crack at a Group-1 title.
“It’s always good,” Nolen said of the partnership.
“We’re going alright. My weight isn’t good enough to be riding all of them unfortunately. I’ve had to get off a couple of the lighter weights recently, but he’s (Moody) been forgiving of that.
“I’ve served him pretty well for the first 15 years so that’s probably why he’s been so forgiving.” Nolen said with a smile.
Stable representative Katherine Coleman said Lightsaber’s preparation was going exactly according to plan.
“It’s all just been a build-up, getting him there fitness wise, and today he saddled up in really good order,” she said.
“He’ll improve again off today’s run and we really look forward to being back here in a few weeks for the Guineas. He’s our clear and present number-one seed.”
The connection between the Moody family and Nolen was strengthened even further last week after the win of Caffrey in the $35,000 BenchMark 70 Handicap (1400m) at Sale.
The six-year-old gelding is owned by the Moody family, with Peter, his wife Sarah, and children Cara, Celine and Breann all shareholders in the white/grey son of Kendargent/Vital Body.
“There are some very important members of the Moody family in the ownership so it was good to get a win for them,” Nolen said.
“Mrs Moody (Sarah) has been one of my greatest supporters throughout my career and it’s always a nice touch if I can ride a winner in her colours.”
Nolen was forced to work three and four wide in the first 600 metres before taking a sit outside the lead.
But Caffrey showed great character to out-tough his challengers in the run to the finish line, claiming his fourth win from 14 starts.
“He was good and solid…we worked a bit to find our spot, which was good in the end, and then Froggy (Craig Newitt on the leader) turned the tempo up as we straightened, which played right into my hands,” Nolen said.
“I had a good bunny to follow for a long while, so he didn’t get a chance to get complacent and he ran it right out.
“He had circumstances play out to suit him, he didn’t get a chance to loaf along, we travelled very well and it turned into a dog fight and he had the most amount of dog in him.
“He toughed it right out and he’s a winner today.”