Strike Me Pink – Nathan Day’s Dubious Ride on Helsun Revisited

HELSUN – Slow to begin. Stewards opened an inquiry into Jockey N. Day’s riding, particularly over the final 400m. After taking evidence from Jockey Day and Trainer D. Markey the matter was adjourned to allow Stewards to view the previous starts and also examine the betting records of the race. A post-race veterinary examination did not reveal any significant findings other than some lacerations in the horse’s mouth and a laceration of the off hind chestnut.

Question:

Why have the Stewards opened an Inquiry into Nathan ‘Grubby’ Day’s ride on Helsun in the world’s worst race, the Maiden at Doomben last Thursday?

Answer:

Because

(a) The Stipes are a panel filled with paranoid pedants? or

(b) They have two eyes, and are thus not too blind to see? or

(c) Chief Steward Chadwick wasn’t at the races, yet again’

(d) any combination of the above!

Nathan ‘Grubby’ Day’s ride on Helsun in Race 2, the Maiden at Doomben last Thursday – the one that I called the worst race in the world in my last column on this site – was either the hottest piece of work since Rihanna ground her booty in the video for the song S&M, or the second worst ride that I’ve seen in 50 years at the track, the worst one being Danny Hobby’s when he fell off Strike Softly in the 1983 Bunbury Cup.

Here’s how the race at Doomben unfolded:

Grubby appears to be daydreaming in the barriers when the starter Mr Smith or Lister hits go, and as a result Helsun – the opening favorite who has blown faster in the betting than an Ekka week westerly wind – misses the start by a couple of lengths and lands a conspicuous last.

Helsun settles and picks up the bit, and because he’s a whole lot faster than most of the crustaceans in this crab’s race the horse starts to kick up on the fence and passes a few, and for a second it appears that he is about to land a spot three back the fence and get the ‘gun’ run.

Grubby’s not having any of that however, so with only clear daylight and the horse on the leader’s back in front of him he decides to stand up in the irons and let the mule one of the fence ahead of him ease back and take his run. It does, and five or so furlongs later Zofgold goes on to win the race.

Day’s mount is now four back the fence, although between the 1000 and the 800 the little Aussie battler does his best to let another one in ahead of him by easing about two lengths off the horse he has let cross, but Mulholland Man’s rider Justin Huxtable isn’t interested in putting himself into a pocket, so Grubby’s stuck with it.

They come to the 800, and from now until the turn there is clear room for young Nathan to either ease Helsun off the fence and hook around the leading pack, or to punch up onto Zofgold’s back, but he does neither, instead electing to just keep restraining his mount so it’s 2-2.5 lengths off that horse.

The field rounds the home turn and hits the straight, and young apprentice Adin Thompson aboard the soon to be 16-1 winner eases off the fence and hooks around the leader’s heels. Grubby has two obvious options, to follow him and slingshot off his back at the 200m, or to use the ever-widening gap that slow horses running backwards have created for him and hook around the leader and Zofgold’s heels now.

No prizes for guessing what Day does instead. He sticks to the rail, where the only thing he can see ahead of him is horses’ arses, and I’m not talking about the mug punters who have invested their hard earned on Helsun.

They reach the furlong pole, and despite his numerous errors of judgement so far Grubby is still a chance of pinching a win against all odds, for the leader’s laying down and Zofgold is plodding along struggling to bridge the gap. All Day has to do is punch Helsun up, use his momentum to roll around the leader into the gap inside the other horse, and he’s home.

I don’t need to tell you that he doesn’t, do I? Nah! Grubby steers his horse hard against the rail right up the back of the punctured balloon posing as a racehorse in front of him, and as it picks up he appears for all the world to steer it back into the rail again. Zofgold lays in, just like tired chasing plodders the world around do, but even before he does it Grubby has grabbed hold and checked Helsun back a length and a half or two.

We’re at about the 50m mark now, and thanks to his rider’s poor decisions Helsun is no hope of winning. He starts to pick up really quickly for a few strides, but being an animal welfare man Grubby puts a stop to that after 20m and stands up in the irons and lets his horse coast into third.

‘Strike me pink’ the race caller Josh Fleming says.

He’s being very polite indeed I say, and don’t you worry about that.

Leave the worrying to Grubby instead.

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