Champion hurdler Black and Bent has continued his build up to the Grand National Hurdle and the Melbourne Cup with an impressive win in the Kevin Lafferty Hurdle over 3600m at Warrnambool on Sunday.
Black and Bent is attempting to become the first horse to win the Grand National and the Melbourne Cup in the same year, and despite his easy win yesterday, jockey Stephen Pateman believes there is still plenty of improvement in the six year old.
“He’s really something special. Words can’t describe the feeling of riding a horse like this, he’s really something special and I’m very privileged to be a part of it,” Pateman said.
“He’s got amazing improvement in him, he’s still really soft.”
Punters who took the long odds on about Black and Bent would have had their hearts in their mouths when the horse almost fell at the first hurdle of the race, however he regained balance and was not troubled again in the race.
“I think he went fantastic. I couldn’t really expect any more from him and I’m not really concerned about his jumping because the ones that he jumped well he jumped exceptionally and that’s the main thing.” Pateman continued.
Black and Bent will now move on to the Grand National Hurdle at Sandown on Sunday week, where he will be forced to carry a massive 69kg, which is one more kilo than he had on his back in yesterday’s win.
Despite the massive weight, trainer Robert Smerdon is confident in his horse’s ability, saying that Black and Bent had now surpassed his former stable mate Some are Bent, who was twice crowned Jumper of the Year.
“I think he’s better now. He’s a better jumper than Some are Bent; he used to barge through them. This horse is a deliberate jumper and his flat form is superior,” Smerdon said.
“This horse is relaxing far better now. He’s probably in the prime of his life.”
Part owner Mike Symons confirmed that Black and Bent will now be set for the Grand National Hurdle (Aug 14) and then the JJ Houlahan Hurdle (Aug 28), before he is given a short break and aimed at the 2011 Melbourne Cup.
“We’ll get through the immediate hurdles first, pardon the pun, and then we’ll see where we go, but I’d like to have a crack at a race like the Melbourne Cup because we think if he bought his A game yo Flemington he’d certainly finish in the top ten,” Symons said.
The Warrnambool meeting was overshadowed by the fact that the Eric Musgrove trained Zealous suffered a fall in the Thackeray Steeplechase, and had to be euthanized.
“We had three jumps races with good fields and great racing. It is disappointing, but it is the first incident in a steeplechase this year so it has to be put into context,” said Victorian Racing Minister David Napthine, who was on course at Warrnambool to show his support for the embattled code.
For the record, the Thackeray Hurdle was taken out by Pay the Aces.