From the Commentary Box – Monday, 14th April 2014

The Easter Handicap is one of my favourite races on the calendar.

The time honoured metric mile is traditionally the last Group One race of the season.

Invariably it is one of the most exciting races to watch every season.

Last Saturday’s edition at Ellerslie was a classic example.

With 250m to go there were at least seven winning chances as the field stretched across the track to fight out the finish.

And, from a local Cambridge perspective it was a case of close ….but no cigar!

The race was won by eventual favourite Albany Reunion, in the hands of Mark Du Plessis.

Chasing hard though were two Cambridge trained runners, Chintz and Roll Out The Carpet.

In a blanket finish there was less than a length covering the first seven horses home.

Albany Reunion gave Du Plessis his fifth Group One win of the season.

“It was a brave performance from him after being three wide most of the way” said Du Plessis later.

Trained by former top rider Nigel Tiley, Albany Reunion was caught three wide from his wide barrier draw.

“I realised pretty quickly I wasn’t going to get any cover but my horse needs space and hates being crowded in his races” explained Du Plessis.

“The other thing was he was comfortable where he was so although not ideal, there was no need to panic” he added.

With challengers coming thick and fast, Albany Reunion kept digging to stave off Chintz and Roll Out The Carpet.

Chintz, trained by Tony Pike and Mark Donoghue, only just failed to pick up the winner.

“It’s gutting actually because she deserves to win a Group One race” said rider Rory Hutchings afterwards.

Chintz would have to rate one of the most improved mares this season.

She has progressed from the lower grades earlier this season through to one of the most genuine and consistent racemares in commission.

Her season highlight was the success in the Group Two Rich Hill Mile at Ellerslie.

“She has done a huge job for us this season” commented co trainer Tony Pike.

Roll Out The Carpet thrilled her connections with her tenacious third placing.

“We knew she was pretty well and its great to see her bounce back to her best form” said co trainer Jeff McVean.

The former Group One winner has had her share of injury concerns over the past year but she seems over those now.

Her jockey Rogan Norvall was thrilled with the effort.

“I thought she was going to win at the 150m…. it was a top effort” said Norvall.

All honours though were with the winner Albany Reunion who worked overtime during the race yet still held on for the win.

Interestingly, Albany Reunion is co owned by high profile businessman Eric Watson.

Watson is also the co owner of the New Zealand Warriors along with another high profile businessman Sir Owen Glenn.

Last week the two “partners” were embroiled in a very public media spat over their football team.

The old saying about big boys and their toys came home to roost methinks.

Last weekend the TAB bookies concocted a special double bet involving Watson and Sir Glenn.

Sir Glenn is the breeder and owner of Criterion who was the pre post favourite for the prestigious ATC Derby at Randwick last Saturday.

With all the media attention the pair found themselves in last week, the TAB bookies offered a special double on their two horses.

Albany Reunion to win the Easter and Criterion to win the ATC Derby.

I’m sure the bookies had their tongues firmly wedged in their cheeks when they came up with the promotion.

But both partners and the smart punters had the last laugh when both Albany Reunion and Criterion both scored.

You just gotta love this racing game !!

I’ll catch you next week.

Cheers

George.