History and the odds on Australia’s champion hurdler Black And Bent to win the 2011 Melbourne Cup this November may be against them, but trainer Robert Smerdon believes the Flemington feature is more than just a pipe dream after the horse’s authoritative victory in the $200,000 Grand National Hurdle (3900m) at Betfair Park, Sandown Lakeside on Sunday.
In-form Black Hawk six-year-old Black And Bent has been dominating the Victorian jumps racing action this prep, but yesterday’s success was their most exciting so far.
With regular rider and four-time Tommy Corrigan Medal winner Steven Pateman in the mount, Black And Bent ($1.30F) easily carted their hefty 69kg weight allocation to a blistering 12 length win in the Grand National Hurdle over former winner Desert Master ($17) while Famous Prince ($20) finished a further three and a quarter lengths away third.
Pateman was over the moon with the Grand National win, which was the decorated jumps jockey’s first in the feature, and was also more than pleased with having done it aboard Black And Bent.
“What a horse to do it on,” he said on Sunday.
“I’m actually quite relieved it’s all over.
“He’s just an amazing horse and he was in the zone today.
“His turn of foot just puts them away.
“His staying ability and jumping ability, he’s just a freak.
Black And Bent boasts one of the most commanding jumps racing records of any horse in recent history, his last defeat in a hurdle event being in the 2009 Grand National when he finished fifth behind Desert Master.
Connections are now keener than ever on the gelding’s chances to return to flat racing for the richest handicap race in the world, the $6 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on Tuesday November 1.
“There’s a bit of pressure when there’s a lot of expectation, albeit he looked as though he had them covered, but they’ve still got to do the job and so I was really pleased with the fact that he did it and the way he did it,” Smerdon said of Black And Bent’s Sunday win.
Only one horse in Australian racing history has scored the unique feat of winning both the Grand National Hurdle and the Melbourne Cup, 1884 Melbourne Cup winner Malua who went on to take out the 1886 Grand National after turning their attention to jumps racing.
No horse has done it in the same year, however, and the bookmakers have their Melbourne Cup odds installed accordingly with Black And Bent rated a $121 roughie.
They will have their next-up run in the $100,000 JJ Houlahan Hurdle (3400m) at Sandown on Sunday August 28 before embarking on a flat racing crusade towards the 2011 Melbourne Cup.
Black And Bent’s managing co-owner and Melbourne Racing Club chairman Mike Symons indicated that they would attempt to qualify their contender for the Melbourne Cup and pass the first ballot clause by winning either the $100,000 Listed R.M. Ansett Classic (2400m) at Mornington on Friday October 1 or the $200,000 Listed The Bart Cummings (2500m) run at Flemington the next day, Saturday October 2.
“If he could win a race like that he could get a penalty and get into the (Melbourne) Cup but that’s still six weeks away,” Symons said.
“This horse is still on the up, that’s the scary thing.
“He’s just a superstar.”
There is also a chance Black And Bent will take their jumping genius to the global stage with the A$1.7 million Group 1 Nakayama Daishogai (4100m) in Japan on Christmas Eve also on the agenda.
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