Trainer Mark Walker and apprentice Tan Wei Li combined to spring a major upset with Warspirit in the $55,000 South Australian Jockey Club Trophy Class 4 race over 1600m on Sunday.
Walker, who had already visited the winner’s circle last Friday with Savvy As, was stepping Warspirit up to the mile, a journey the son of Scaredee Cat had attempted only once at his previous 15 starts, without success.
But the New Zealander felt it was time to revisit that stamina test for the Very Stable-owned galloper as he was of the opinion that he had toughened up in the interim. His confidence grew even more when Warspirit drew a good barrier (No 2) and later on Sunday itself when the rain decided to stay away.
Outsider Warspirit (Tan Wei Li) hold s off Devonshire (Joao Moreira) to win Race 7 on Sunday, picture Singapore Turf Club.
After jumping smartly, Warspirit, who was sent out at generous odds of $201, took advantage of his handy gate to bowl up to the head of affairs early, with Gold Run (Ivaldo Santana) and Rimsky (Danny Beasley) shepherding him along for the first 600m.
Tan eventually had Warspirit travelling on his lonesome without getting off the bridle, in a bid to save as much petrol as possible inside the concluding stages.
At the corner, Warspirit kicked clear but the swoopers were descending thick and fast across the track. Walker’s ward however battled on gamely and looked like he had his 12 rivals safely held until jockey Joao Moreira brought Devonshire into the clear at the 200m.
The Laurie Laxon-trained gelding kept chipping away as he tried to peg back the leader but it proved insufficient to really trouble Warspirit, who fell in by half-a-length on the line. Third was Lady Trio (Koh Teck Huat) another 1 ¼ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 36.16secs.
“If you look at his form, every time it rains, he’s pretty hopeless,” said Walker.
“As he drew a barrier, Willy was able to dictate. The soft lead and the three-kilo claim down to 50kgs played a big part too.
“He’s had a go at the mile before, but he didn’t quite get there then. I think he has got stronger with age and I thought he would see it out better this time.”
Tan, who was Warspirit’s partner at one of his previous two successes, said the better track on the inside made the gelding’s task easier.
“I didn’t want him to be on the outside as the track was better on the inside,” said the apprentice jockey.
“He was always travelling for me at every stage. I wasn’t worried about the distance and he showed plenty of courage all the way to the line.”