P'ARTIE TIME: International help gets gelding back to form
RACING: Punters had to wait until the last race before seeing a local horse triumph at the Clarence River Jockey Club on Saturday.
But it was well worth the wait, according to trainer Scott Henley.
All eyes were on the showboater P'Artie Town in the Patriots Bloodstock Class 1 Handicap (1430m) after a late plunge saw the horse go from $5.50 to $1.90 favourite in the gates.
Henley said it was just a case of the stars aligning for the troubled gelding who has struggled for form since joining the Grafton trainer earlier this year.
"A professional punter came up to me in the yard and said this movement was just off the map,” Henley said.
"But for anyone who was paying attention, they would have seen it. He dropped in class, got the switch home to a dry track and had an international jockey in the saddle.
"The stars aligned for him this run, that's why he won.”
The international jockey was Japanese rider Kanichiro Fujii, who goes by Joe when he rides in Australia.
Fujii started his riding career at Murwillumbah, and soon found himself as an apprentice in Sydney where he rode for some big stables, including Gai Waterhouse, and that is where Henley first met him.
"Since then he has won Group races in Singapore, Japan and Macau and he has now come back to work out of the Toby Edmonds yard,” Henley said. "As soon as I heard he was available a couple of weeks ago I have tried booking him on all of my rides. He has ridden two out of the past three to the winning post for me.
"He is a thinking man's jockey. He does all his research, all his homework and he walks every track before raceday just so he knows where he wants to be at all times.”
Fujii ran a strong race on P'artie Town, sitting the horse just off the pace on the rails before sweeping down the outside at the home turn. Despite losing his way when he hit the front, the four-year-old by Arttie Schiller just had enough left in the tank to power home.
Craig Franklin ran a strong race on Glenturret to finish second with Frisco Albert (Kasie Stanley) rounding out the placings 1.5 lengths back.
The win made it a Grafton double for Fujii who had earlier won by two lengths on board Shear Vogue for Joe Gleeson.
But the day belonged to legendary jockey Cyril Small, who proved he still has what it takes to ride a winner in race two, the Ringside Trackside Benchmark 51 Handicap (2230m).
Small, who was born on a farming property outside of Grafton, rose to fame four decades ago when he and Group 1 winner Vo Rogue took all before them.
And he proved he has not lost a step since, when he piloted Watched (Bryan and Daniel Guy) to win by a length from Cushty Princess (Matt Paget).