Popeye a Harris helper towards milestone

Popeye Braggins drew rider Noel Harris one win closer to another personal milestone for the amazing horseman when scoring a fresh-up win at Trentham last Saturday.

Harris was given the thumbs up from Popeye Braggins’ co-trainer and part-owner Tony Pike over his display on the O’Reilly five-year-old in the www.richardsonracing.co.nz Premier. “It was a peach of a ride from Noel,” said Pike. “The horse was quite forward and Noel put him in the race and gave him every chance.”

Popeye Braggins scored by a length and a half from Charlestown, but what Pike didn’t realise was the help he had given Harris to bridge the gap on Bill Skelton in the 2000-win list.

Harris is one of the five members of the elite group of jockeys to have ridden 2000 or more New Zealand winners. He is currently sitting in fourth position behind O’Sullivan, Walsh and Skelton after heading off David Peake (2093).

Skelton kicked home 2156 winners during his illustrious career and thanks to Popeye Braggins Harris has moved to 11 wins of equalling Skelton’s tally.

“It’s not a major goal to beat Bill’s tally,” said Harris. “If it happens, it happens. The main one for me was to head off Peaky as I was so close at the time.”

Popeye Braggins has played his part in Harris’ success over the last season as he has been ridden in each of his four wins by the legendary horseman.

Harris (59) had a bumper innings last season with 45 wins, including seven Group or Listed successes and he has kicked home 16 winners this term from 180 rides.

He has always had a good opinion of Popeye Braggins and believes he can continue on to more success.

“He’s come back stronger,” said Harris. “Being fresh, he was able to race handier than he normally does and he really responded when I asked him to go. He’s got a nice future.”

Popeye Braggins was having his first start since almost coming to grief in a race won by his stablemate Sacred Star at Pukekohe last November.

“He almost fell,” recalled Pike. “He pulled and shoe and was injured. That’s why he was off for so long.”