Sentiment will play no part in Humidor’s spring campaign after Chris Waller conjured another training miracle with the revitalised veteran to secure a guaranteed berth in the $5 million centenary Cox Plate.
Acutely aware of Humidor’s Cox Plate journey, having twice conquered the quirky former Kiwi with Winx in 2017 and ’18, Waller insists the gelding’s pathway to a third Cox Plate start will hinge on the horse’s health – and nothing else.
“Whether we take him that step, I said to the owners ‘I’m only pushing on if he’s a sound horse.’ Winning or losing is irrelevant,” Waller said after capping a remarkable rejuvenation of a horse who hadn’t won for 735 days.
“I want the horse to be sound and that’s why he’s got here today. Nothing else matters.”
Fighting back tears on a day when racing mourned the death of Sydney trainer Rick Worthington, Waller indicated there was no room for poetic justice with Humidor, who was installed as an emergency for last year’s Cox Plate after minor placings the previous two years.
He ran on Plate day last year, finishing fourth in the Moonee Valley Gold Cup with subsequent results seemingly pointing towards retirement.
Waller once tried to buy Humidor, only to be trumped by disqualified trainer Darren Weir, who saddled the evergreen galloper at his previous win in the 2018 Memsie Stakes.
Since Weir’s fall from grace with a four-year ban, Humidor has been handled by three different trainers – Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, Lindsey Smith and now Waller.
“It was great to see, great old horse, simple as that,” Waller mused after Damian Lane capitalised on Damian Thornton’s broken foot to pick up the ride before delivering a wonderful ride. “So many great memories of Winx, simple as that.
“I guess it (victory) was (a surprise), we hadn’t given him a chance to disappoint us. We had just taken him over from what looked like a pretty average campaign last time around so we just went back to the basics.
“I guess that’s how I learnt my trade – go back to the basics – you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just treat horses and give them that will to live and race again.
“Jo (Taylor) and her team have done a fantastic job during COVID (at Flemington). He was due to come up here today to race but was unable to do so, so this was the right race for him.
“Damian Lane has had a great association with the horse. Damien Thornton, unfortunately, was riding him and broke his foot – a comedy of great stories.
“The horse, even from the beginning, I followed him to New Zealand.”
Waller will now have the luxury of plotting a conservative path to the October 24 Cox Plate, a race which has defined the immensely successful Kiwi.
Lane, who won the Cox Plate on Lys Gracieux 10 months ago, is not prepared to dismiss Humidor in a year when the Japanese will be absent.
“I’ve always said with this horse, you wouldn’t put anything past him,” Lane said.
“He’s a little superstar and on his day he’s as good as any horse.
“They’ve done a massive job at Flemington to get him here today the way they did. Not often you see eight-year-olds turn their form around. Great to be back on-board.”
Humidor ($18) downed Surprise Baby ($3 favourite) by a long neck with Harbour Views ($5.50) a short half-head further back.
THE VALLEY WRAP
DUNN’S HARD KNOCK
Dwayne Dunn was taken to hospital for precautionary scans on his neck after his mount Shot Of Irish reared on jumping from the barriers, causing Dunn to strike his head leaving the gates. Out of contention, Dunn and Shot Of Irish completed the course before Dunn was assisted back to scales by the clerk of the course before being stood down for the rest of the day.
Willie Pike is renowned as a last-race specialist but he reprised his winning habit mid-meeting at The Valley as Showmanship proved his mettle by claiming the Listed Strathmore Community Bendigo Bank Stakes (1200m).
The Wizard of the West shadowed main danger Age Of Chivalry everywhere to score an imposing win. Co-trainer Grant Williams paid tribute to Pike‘s masterful ride.
“He (Pike) gave him an absolute peach and the horse did the rest,” Williams said.
Showmanship took his career record to seven wins from eight starts.
Rich praise for Lachie Neindorf after the SA apprentice combined with How Wowmantic to win the Ladbrokes Handicap (1200m) for Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, marking the start of a remarkable day for the stable.
“She was a short-priced favourite and a bit of expectation on her, and Lachie as well,” Eustace said. “I thought he gave her a beautiful ride. He rated her very well and credit to him. He’s a young kid going places, obviously.”
Flash Flood, ridden by Ben Melham, and Junipal, partnered by John Allen, sealed a stable treble after just four races.
Flash Flood is raced by Col McKenna, whose star mare Jameka carried the blue and lime silks to win a VRC Oaks, BMW and Caulfield Cup. Flash Flood looks a smart three-year-old in the making after making the jump from a Wangaratta maiden win to a city success.
Eustace said winkers helped Flash Flood but the son of Night Of Thunder would continue to improve with experience. “He’s still learning his craft,” Eustace said. “We really liked him the first day.
The daughter of 2013 Melbourne Cup winner Fiorente scored narrowly, but Shandy was impressive after sitting wide before putting her rivals away in the Pet Foods Services Handicap (1600m). “She is really just coming of age,” co-trainer Simon Zahra said. “We did nominate her for the Caulfield Cup cheekily, but she has got a nice win in her somewhere over the (spring) carnival.” Shandy has now won three on the bounce since returning from a spell and she is winning like a good horse.
Favourite backers were on good terms with themselves until the home turn of the Lockdown Legends Handicap (2040m). Heavily-backed Dabiyr had enjoyed the perfect run to the 400m but laid out under jockey Michael Rodd rounding the home turn, costing him his chance of victory. Dabiyr got balanced late but was unable to prevent Creedence getting the money for apprentice Michael Poy and Ballarat trainer Matt Cumani.
Cumani said the Group 3 Naturalism Stakes in a fortnight could be a good target for Creedence. The Naturalism Stakes offers a Caulfield Cup ballot exemption but Creedence was not nominated for the October 17 race.
Jockey Jason Benbow had his first win for 15 months when he rode Mr Roger to win at Kilmore on Saturday. Benbow sustained shocking leg injuries in a fall at Sale in May 2019. Benbow had an easy time of it aboard Richard Laming-trained Mr Roger, who scored a three-length win.
Bons Away – bled
Best ever – lame hind leg
Jamie Kah – Eight meetings careless riding
Mark Zahra – 10 meetings careless riding
Richard Laming – $2000 COVID breach
Peter Moody – $500 COVID breach
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I’m a bit emotional after that. She’s a horse to fall in love with. She has heaps of ability but I just admire how tough she is and how hard she tries. She delivers ten-fold,” Will Clarken, trainer of McEwen Stakes winner Bella Vella.
TWEET OF THE DAY
“Shocking news. Rick was a great man, a wonderful horseman, and so kind. He has been taken from us too soon. My thoughts and condolences are with his family and partner Rachel, and may he rest in peace.” – Gai Waterhouse on the death of NSW trainer Rick Worthington.
TAB BETTING REVIEW
Punters were on the money in the opener at Moonee Valley with How Womantic delivering a hammer blow to TAB. Leading throughout over the 1200 metres, Lachie Neindorf had to get everything out of the $2.60 favourite to survive a last dive by Parmie ($15-$13). The daughter of The Wow Signal was heavily tried throughout the week after opening $3.60 on Wednesday. She was four times as popular as second pick in the market Cordilla ($4.60-$3.80-$4.40) and held nearly 70 per cent of the total investment.
BETS: How Womantic $5,000 @ $2.80, $1,300 @ $2.80, $1,000 @ $2.80 MULTIPLE TIMES, $2,510 @ $2.70, $2,000 @ $2.70, $1,000 @ $2.70 MULTIPLE TIMES, $25,440 @ $2.60, $5,000 @ $2.60, $2,500 @ $2.60, Cordilla $3,500 @ $4.40
One of the best tried runners all day at The Valley was Shandy. The Matt Ellerton & Simon Zahra-trained runner opened $5 on Wednesday and TAB punters were quick to jump on board the mare. Today, that support was sustained which saw the five-year-old firm from $3.70 into a dominant $2.80 favourite. Going around with nearly two-and-a-half times the support of the next best supported which was Sovereign Award ($5-$6), Jamie Kah got everything out of Shandy which won despite sitting three-wide the trip. It was the second consecutive race that punters were well on top and delivered TAB a losing result.
BETS: Shandy $4,000 @ $3.30, $1,000 @ $3.30, $1,000 @ $3, $3,000 @ $2.80, $2,500 @ $2.80, $1,600 @ $2.80, $1,000 @ $2.80 MULTIPLE TIMES
A move at odds for Flash Flood paid dividends in the Drummond Golf Handicap (1500 metres). The Ciaron Maher & David Eustace-trained galloper was backed from a morning quote of $19 to start a $9 chance – good for equal third in betting. Flinders River ($7) went around with the most money while Best Ever ($11) and Surooj ($10) were tried late at odds while Milton Park ($18-$9) halved its quote on the day too.
One of the ‘good things’ of the day did the right thing by his backers in the Powerflo Solutions Handicap (1600 metres). Junipal was crunched from $2.30-$2.15 on the day and bottomed out at even money at one point. Astute TAB customers secured as much as $3 on Wednesday. Sitting behind the leader Alsvin ($9), John Allen eased out three-wide at the top of the straight and the Maher & Eustace son of Reset did the rest. He held over half the market and was extremely popular through multis.
BETS: Junipal $2,000 @ $2.25, $1,500 @ $2.25, $4,000 @ $2.15, $1,400 @ $2.15, $5,000 @ $2.10, $1,600 @ $2.10, $1,000 @ $2.10 MULTIPLE TIMES, $6,000 @ $2, $3,000 @ $2
BETS: Shot Of Irish $2,400 @ $3.80, $1,000 @ $3.70, $1,500 @ $3.50
The big push for Age Of Chivalry back fired in the Strathmore Community Bendigo Bank Stakes (1200 metres). Backed since the market opened on Wednesday, TAB customers jumped all over Age of Chivalry to see it firm from $4.80 on Wednesday into $3.20 at the jump. Planted three-wide the trip, Age of Chivalry couldn’t withstand the finishing burst of the easing favourite Showmanship ($1.85-$2.25). Despite being a drifter, Showmanship held the most money in the race. Between it and Age of Chivalry, they commanded a whopping 75 per cent of the market.
BETS: Showmanship $3,500 @ $2.25, $2,000 @ $2.25 MULTIPLE TIMES, $1,592 @ $2.25, $1,500 @ $2.25, $1,000 @ $2.25 MULTIPLE TIMES, Age Of Chivalry $2,500 @ $3.20, $1,000 @ $3.20 MULTIPLE TIMES, $10,000 @ $3.10, $1,000 @ $3.10
Strong money all day suggested Bella Vella would be hard to toss in the Mittys McEwen Stakes (1000 metres). Going $5-$4.20 on the day, Bella Vella arrived in time to nail roughie Ashlor ($31) right on the post. The winner was the most popular runner in terms of money held. Brooklyn Hustle ($3.80) was the second most popular and carried a number of large bets while Hanseatic, the $2.90 favourite on Wednesday, got out to $4 before a late rally saw it start $3.70 favourite after it lost top spot in betting briefly to Brooklyn Hustle.
BETS: Bella Vella $1,150 @ $4.40, $1,000 @ $4.40 MULTIPLE TIMES, $1,500 @ $4.20, Brooklyn Hustle $2,500 x $6,000 e/w @ $3.90/$1.60, $3,000 @ $3.90, $1,000 @ $3.90, $1,500 @ $3.80, $1,000 @ $3.80 MULTIPLE TIMES, Hanseatic $3,865 @ $4, $1,000 @ $4 MULTIPLE TIMES
The money for Night Raid was spot on in the Inglis Ready2race Atlantic Jewel Stakes (1200 metres). TAB went up $6 on Wednesday for the Mick price & Michael Kent Jnr runner and that was snapped up early. Today, $4.20 was on offer in the morning but consistent backing saw it bottom out at $3.50 which is what it jumped at. Agreeable ($4-$5-$4.60) lost favouritism to the winner and was second most popular while Dirty Thoughts ($7-$5.50) and Aidensfield ($4.40-$6) was primarily a drifter ever since markets opened.
BETS: Night Raid $6,000 @ $3.80, $1,500 @ $3.80, $8,500 @ $3.70, $5,000 @ $3.70, Aidensfield $4,500 @ $5.50, Aryaaf $1,500 @ $21
Grand campaigner Humidor’s victory wasn’t totally unexpected in the Feehan Stakes (1600 metres). The Chris Waller runner was $23-$26 at one point in the afternoon, however, some specking closer to jump time saw the price get down to $18. With Damian Lane hunting the rails for a run, the eight-year-old found a split early in the straight and sprinted sharply to score. Surprise Baby ($3-$3.60-$3.40) was ready to deliver a big blow to TAB and land some huge bets, however, couldn’t hold off the finish of Humidor while Harbour Views ($4-$4.80) was close up in third. Surprise Baby accounted for 43 per cent of the total investment.
BETS: Humidor $500 @ $26, $500 @ $21, $790 @ $18, $500 @ $18 TWICE, $500 e/w @ $18/$3.90 TWICE, Streets Of Avalon $3,556 @ $6.50, Coming Around $3,000 @ $10, $1,000 @ $10, Surprise Baby $2,500 @ $3.60, $2,000 @ $3.60, $3,000 @ $3.50, $3,500 @ $3.50, $2,000 @ $3.50 MULTIPLE TIMES, $2,000 @ $3.40, Sircconi $1,500 @ $4.60, $1,000 @ $4.60, $2,000 @ $4.40, $1,000 @ $4.40, Harbour Views $3,000 @ $4.60, $2,500 @ $4.60, $1,500 @ $4.60
Creedence upset the strong push for Dabiyr in the final event on the program from Moonee Valley. Most TAB customers were in the corner of Dabiyr ($2.60) which was nearly four times as popular as anything else in the race. Creedence hovered around the $4 mark for most of the day before starting $4.20. It held more money than anything else outside of Dabiyr. Of the rest, Naivasha ($9.50) and Skelm ($8.50) had plenty of admirers too at the each way odds.
BETS: Creedence $2,000 @ $4.20, $1,500 @ $4.20 MULTIPLE TIMES, $1,000 @ $4.20 MULTIPLE TIMES, Dabiyr $1,667 @ $2.80, $10,000 @ $2.50, $5,000 @ $2.50, $3,000 @ $2.50 MULTIPLE TIMES, $2,000 @ $2.50 MULTIPLE TIMES, Naivasha $8,000 x $2,000 e/w @ $9.50/$2.60
Originally published as Humidor turns back clock to grab Cox Plate ticket