No joking with winning margin

Joking (Michael Mitchell) putting on a fine display in his runaway maiden steeplechase win at Awapuni. (Photo: Race Images).

Joking (Michael Mitchell) putting on a fine display in his runaway maiden steeplechase win at Awapuni. (Photo: Race Images).

Mark Brooks got more than he expected for the second time in succession from his novice ‘chaser Joking at Awapuni yesterday.

Twelve days earlier Joking, ridden by Missy Browne, had surprised the Cambridge trainer when winning an amateur riders’ event at Ellerslie and yesterday he made it two wins on end when taking the Winstone Wallboards Maiden Steeplechase (4200m).

Brooks wasn’t surprised to see Joking win the Awapuni event, but he, like everyone else, never dreamed the five-year-old would succeed with 45 lengths to spare over the runner-up, The Painter.

“It mightn’t have been a good field, but it was a good polished display and it wasn’t a bad time he ran,” said Brooks. “It compared quite well with the Manawatu Steeplechase. I know it (the feature) was 200 metres further but Joking ran 25 seconds faster and he could go a far way in that time. He looked as though he wouldn’t have any trouble getting further.

“It’s a big difference racing in maiden class and open company but I think he’ll make the grade all right.”

Brooks is keen to test Joking over the Ellerslie hill, but that is unlikely to happen this winter.

“There’s only the Pakuranga Hunt Cup and the Great Northern at Ellerslie and they’re a bit much for him in his first season (of jumping),” said Brooks. “He’ll have to go to the restricted open at Te Aroha in a fortnight or so and there’s one at Te Rapa after that.”

Joking is raced by his breeders, Frank and Faye Drummond, and has been in Brooks’ stable for 10 months. He won a couple of 1400-metre heavy track races when originally trained by Frank Drummond and finished second first-up for Brooks when beaten by Reka at Pukekohe last August.

“I’ve got four in work for Frank,” said Brooks. “When he gave me Joking to train it always looked like he’d be a jumper, being a half-brother to McCulley.”

McCulley has won three of six hurdle starts and been successful over country for Wanganui trainer Kevin Myers. Two starts ago McCulley measured up in the Rheem McGregor Grant Steeplechase at Ellerslie when third to Amanood Lad.

Joking was placed in a hurdle trial last April but has switched straight to ‘chasing in the jumping role. He had no joy in his ‘chase debut when losing rider Michael Mitchell at the fourth fence at Te Rapa last month, but made up for that mistake with his amateur riders’ win in his next appearance.

With Mitchell aboard again yesterday, Joking tracked the clear leader, The Painter over the first lap in an action-packed event, in which only four of the seven runners completed the course.

Nells Belle’s rider, Matthew McNelis, lost his irons at the second fence but regained them only to be tossed off at the 1200 on the first round when his mount baulked at the fence. Harvest The Gold, the favourite, fell at the second-last fence when looming as a threat and looking the likely runner-up, while Hard Shot was tailed off last and eventually pulled up at the 1000 metres.

Despite all the action happening around him Joking gave a good display, closing the gap on the pacemaking The Painter and taking over with 800 metres to run. He was five lengths clear on the home turn and ploughed through the testing ground to leave his rivals gasping.

Joking was a bit tired after his effort, but it was nothing compared to his rivals.