Gai Waterhouse pulled off a freakish training feat on Stradbroke Handicap Day stepping the promising Almalad up from a 1200m handicap at Randwick to a Group 1 over the Eagle Farm mile to win the 2014 JJ Atkins.
Going back-to-back in the race after the success of Romantic Touch last Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival, Waterhouse was always confident Al Maher gelding Almalad could handle the acid test in today’s $500,000 Group 1 Tatts Group J.J. Atkins (1600m).
The JJ Atkins winner did nothing right.
Pinging from the gates they over-raced, cartwheeled around the track, let horses up on their inside but then still had the ability to win anyway.
“He was naturally going to go forward early,” Waterhouse’s stable representative Mark Newham said.
“Gai was happy for Tom (Tommy Berry) to put him forward and then let him get comfortable.
“He took a little while to get comfortable and didn’t make the corner all that well but it’s the result that counts.
“When you put the acid to him he will respond and that’s what we got today.”
Newham was also quick to credit the task of Waterhouse to have Almalad ready for the JJ Atkins having only seen 1200m and raced twice before.
“Gai’s one that can do it consistently,” he said.
“Some of the things she can do with horses still amazes me like this one today.”
Almalad was up front challenging for the lead early with BRC Sires’ Produce Stakes winner Time For War as the duo fought for the position of pacemaker.
One of the top fancies in the race, the Chris Waller-trained Brazen Beau meanwhile was settled much better fourth and then on the fence.
Nash Rawiller kept Brazen Beau along the rails in a cushy ride to ensure they saw out the mile before they went up the middle on the straight.
But Almalad didn’t give in having another go up on the outside and getting there in the final stride.
He held off the punters’ early pick with Brazen Beau ($2.45) a long neck away second and the fast finishing Tony Gollan-trained Looks Like The Cat ($7) who was brave in defeat again for third just a nose off the top two.
“I didn’t give him the best of rides,” Berry said after the win.
“We came out of the gates quite well and had good early pace…I probably should have taken him to the front.”
While it wasn’t the prettiest or rides from Berry, Newham didn’t mind once they got to the line first.
“I don’t care how he rides them as long as he gets the result!” he said.
A definite champion in the making and a horse to watch as they mature and learn from experience, Almalad was having just their third career start today.
They remain unbeaten then having won their two opening runs in Sydney firstly over 1000m at Gosford in December and then, as mentioned, over 1200m at Randwick on May 24 over Sports Edition.
The form of that race has certainly stacked up on Stradbroke Day in Brisbane too with runner-up Sports Edition winning the Hampden Stakes to kick off the day.
Like Sports Edition, Almalad was ridden by Tommy Berry who is over from Hong Kong for the day and simply flying.
He also won, for Waterhouse, the Group 2 Dane Ripper Stakes on Cosmic Endeavour before his Group 1 triumph.
“Mark Newham and I have had a wrap on this bloke for a while,” Berry added about Almalad.
There’s every chance Almalad will return in the spring and target the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) in Melbourne this October, another Group 1 Berry could be aboard for.
“It doesn’t matter how many (Group 1s) you win,” Berry said.
“It’s an addictive drug I can’t get enough of.
“I’ll be a happy many flying back (to Hong Kong) tonight.”
Futures Caulfield Guineas betting markets are sure to be updated by Ladbrokes.com.au then following the JJ Atkins results, new odds going up shortly.
So make sure you’ve got an account open with the country’s fastest growing bookie who is also offering Best Tote or SP + 20% on the Stradbroke Handicap today.
2014 JJ Atkins Results & Finishing Order
Eagle Farm Race 6 – 07/06/2014
|1||6||ALMALAD||Gai Waterhouse||Tommy Berry||–||9||57kg||$4.80|
|2||1||BRAZEN BEAU||Chris Waller||Nash Rawiller||0.2L||4||57kg||$2.45|
|3||5||LOOKS LIKE THE CAT||Tony Gollan||Damian Browne||0.3L||6||57kg||$7|
|4||3||PRESSING||Mick Price||Damien Oliver||1.3L||3||57kg||$8|
|5||7||CARELESS||John O’Shea||Kerrin McEvoy||1.4L||11||57kg||$21|
|6||2||TIME FOR WAR||Gerald Ryan||Tye Angland||2.4L||1||57kg||$9.50|
|7||8||FURBISH||Allan Denham||Jim Byrne||5.2L||10||57kg||$41|
|8||4||MOHAVE||John O’Shea||Hugh Bowman||5.5L||8||57kg||$26|
|9||9||STROAK||Bryan Guy||Michael Cahill||5.8L||7||55kg||$71|
|10||11||EMOTIONS IN MOTION||Tony Bita||Tegan Harrison (a)||12.1L||2||55kg||$2.1F|
|11||10||SAGATONA||Liam Birchley||Glen Boss||15.9L||5||55kg||$61|