Straddie preview: jockey out to make most of second chances
Tegan Harrison has a chance to re-write her near-miss Stradbroke story when she rides Bam's On Fire on Saturday, but her overwhelming emotion at the moment is simply being grateful.
Harrison's career hung in the balance after a horror fall at Doomben last year, injuring her back, shoulder, sternum and ribs.
It took her the best part of eight months to get back and just being able to do so changed her outlook on life and riding.
"I'm grateful I could get back to the sport I love, as some have not been so fortunate," she said.
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"I certainly think of those riders at times like this and don't take it for granted."
She specifically mentions her surgeon Terry Hammond, physio Daniel Jones and acupuncturist Cameron Kent as being key figures in her recovery and rehabilitation.
"It was more complex than just collar bone surgery. I needed fake ligaments, because the ligaments had torn off. They hold my arm back together, otherwise I wasn't able to come back racing," she said.
"Then with my physio, I thought a lot of the stuff I was doing early was pointless, but (Jones) just hammered into me. He told me to build these base muscles up first and build them properly so I won't have problems down the track.
"I have to thank him, because all the work he's done, I can see the effects of it now."
Harrison said despite the extent of her injuries there was never any consideration given to opting out of her riding career.
"I was pretty keen to get back on a horse," she said.
"I had a friend to put me back up on my noble steed (early on in the recovery). That feeling, I knew I had to get back.
"I just sat on him, had a little walk, tried to trot, but it hurt too much. Then backed off, but I knew it was what I wanted to work back towards."
Now she gets her chance to win her first Group 1 in a race she came so close to winning on Temple Of Boom back in 2014.
"I think about that day all the time. How it could have been different if I got my nose in front. But obviously so grateful to get so close to winning," she said.
"Temple took me on an amazing journey in racing. He never let me down. He was always starting at bigger prices and running bottlers of races and making me look good. I owe a lot to that horse.
"So to have another shot at the Stradbroke is pretty exciting. It's just exciting for me to be back racing, let alone an opportunity like that."
ORMAN TRIMS DOWN IN PURSUIT OF GLORY
Jimmy Orman has boxed, run and lifted his way to the lightest weight he's been in years in a bid to be fit to ride Niccanova at 53½kg in the Group 1 Stradbroke at Eagle Farm.
Fellow jockey Justin Huxtable is on a similarly strict regimen, as he sheds the pounds to ride Crack Me Up at 53kg. Both naturally weigh significantly more than that, but with a Group 1 carrot on offer, the incentive is worthwhile.
They are two of many jockeys having to shed kilos this week in a bid to make the weight for on Saturday in a race where just two runners were handicapped higher than 53kg.
Robbie Fradd was sporting his usual big grin on Wednesday, knowing he was doing it a whole lot more comfortably to get to 52½kg to ride Tyzone than some others in the jockeys' room, tipping there might be some cranky riders come Stradbroke time.
The situation was highlighted when stewards gave permission on Tuesday for four jockeys to ride overweight in the Stradbroke, including Orman and Huxtable.
Orman engaged the services of fitness guru Ron Johnson, who has many decades of experience getting jockeys down to light weights for big races.
"Jimmy Orman is very fit, focused, healthy and will be bang-on for Saturday," Johnson said.
Orman said it was normal for him to sit around 57-58kg and then sweat the weight off to ride 55kg on racedays.
This time he's done it differently, and he feels better for it, employing Johnson's fitness regimen and famous soup diet.
"I got down to 54.3kg (on Wednesday). I will get down a bit more and I will be closer to 53kg (Saturday)," he said. "From (last) Wednesday to about Sunday was the hardest, but now it's been a lot easier, probably because I'm a bit fitter.
"Ron's pretty tough, but I know I have to do the work to make the weight.
"This horse is worth doing it for."
Huxtable was locked in for the Crack Me Up ride on Monday morning, meaning he had to get to work quickly in a bid to be close to the right weight.
"There's no Uber Eats that's for sure," he said. "I just eat lots of fruit. That's the main thing.
"Most of the boys would say the same, watermelon and those fruits that hold a lot of liquid and you don't have to drink as much fluid if you eat high liquid foods.
"It usually bottoms me out getting to 54kg, so I just have to maintain it around that mark and then get a bit off Friday night and hopefully it makes less pressure.
"We're all in good spirits at the moment.
"Jimmy Orman and myself are probably the two that are doing it the hardest."
Graff trending up again
At one time he was one of the hottest stallion prospects in the country and was thought highly enough of as a spring three-year-old to start favourite over The Autumn Sun in the Golden Rose.
Things haven't quite panned out for Graff as the early promise suggested, but part-owner Luke Murrell of Australian Bloodstock has not given up on him still climbing a Group 1 mountain.
He's hoping the move by Kris Lees to give Graff a couple of changes of environment since his last run will spark the four-year-old stallion into action.
Even with Sean Cormack to ride 1kg over at 53kg, Murrell suggests Graff is weighted to win Saturday's Stradbroke at Eagle Farm … should he choose to put his best foot forward.
That's become the story with Graff - 651 days have passed since he won a race and he's started single-figure odds in all 12 runs since.
He was sent out favourite again last time, but ran a middling fifth to Stradbroke rival Ranier.
It would be a little ironic - and even harder to swallow for punters who have remained true to the cause - if he were to break the run of outs at hugely inflated odds (he's $34 with Ladbrokes) on Saturday.
"On my ratings, seven of his last 10 runs win this race," Murrell said. "If the real horse turns up he will win. If he runs like he did the other day, he will be down the track."
Murrell points to close-up competitive runs against Pierata, Redzel, Classique Legend and even Nature Strip last spring as clear reasons why Graff can win the Stradbroke. He also knows that two of his last three have been ordinary.
So why will it be different on Saturday?
"What I like what Kris has done … he had to try something different," Murrell said.
"Being a big bull and stallion, he sent him to Aquis Farm for a week, then to his Gold Coast stable. The horse has seen two or three different environments and that's really perked him up.
"They have made some gear changes and said Tuesday was the best he's ever worked.
"Look, he might be cooked and over the top, but with barrier two, he does no work, all the favourites are drawn to be back, wide and ugly, if he's not finished, he will go close."
Murrell also feels Chief Ironside is capable of running a cheeky race at similarly long odds.
"He has blinkers on for the first time and I think he's a bit over the odds as well," he said.
"He will be working up on speed and he's a very tough horse to run past."
Tough draw for Straddie favourites
The two favourites for this year's Stradbroke drew the two extreme outside gates as the market for Queensland's pin-up race was given a huge shake-up.
Dawn Passage had been a firming favourite all week before coming up with gate 23 (he will jump from 18 after emergencies come out), and last year's winner, Trekking, will jump just to his inside after drawing gate 22.
Adding further to the draw fallout, other fancies Vega One and Tyzone drew the two gates inside that pair.
Ladbrokes reacted by easing Dawn Passage from $4.40 to $4.60 and Trekking was an even notable drifter, being $5 out to $7.
"There is no doubt the barrier draw has opened the race right up," Ladbrokes Tom Hackett said.
"We are still keeping Dawn Passage safe, despite the wide barrier, but this does make Trekking's task much more difficult."
James Cummings' Godolphin team was out of luck with Trekking, but had better luck with Exhilarates, who firmed from $15 into $11 after coming up with gate 4.
"She will be able to take up a nice position. She's only got 49.5kg, she's got a great barrier, we don't see the 1400m as an issue. On the seven-day back-up like she did in the Magic Millions, it's not a bad formula," Godolphin's Vin Cox said.
"Trekking is one of the elite sprinters in the country, no question. Take the barrier aside, we would be very confident."
Victorem ($10-$7.50), Hightail ($13-$10), Ranier ($17-$14) and Outback Barbie ($26-$21) were the other firmers after favourable draws.
Tony Gollan drained a stiff scotch after seeing Vega One's gate, after being adamant he needed a good draw.
"We might be a bit more negative now than what we would off a good barrier," Gollan said.
On the plus side, 15 of the past 30 Stradbroke winners jumped from double digit draws, including 10 from 13 or worse, and five from gates 17 and 18.
MURPHY ENJOYING HIS PASSAGE INTO OWNERSHIP
An exuberant post Derby Day lunch in Melbourne pushed Brisbane-based businessman Rory Murphy into the "vice" of racehorse ownership and now he finds himself on the brink of being a Group 1 winner.
Murphy and four other friends based in Cairns each have a 12 per cent stake in Dawn Passage, who is out to cap a meteoric rise through the ranks when he takes on older horses in Saturday's Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap.
"I was at a lunch after Derby Day at the casino with a lot of horse people and they couldn't believe I didn't own a share in any horses," Murphy said.
"I told them I had enough vices already, but I went along and gave it a whirl.
"A couple of years later, I'm thinking 'crikey we could get a Group 1 winner.' I'm trying to keep my feet on the ground."
COVID-19 restrictions mean Murphy's celebrations - win, lose or draw - will be limited to only a handful of friends at home and joining his Cairns owners on the House Party app.
"We're pretty pumped. I think we will be losing our minds if he comes up well," he said.
"We're hopeful. We've been very excited to say the least, but with low expectations. We do have stars in our eyes though."
Murphy, who has bought his fellow owners an Akubra style hat with a symbol in honour of Dawn Passage, got a sniff of the racing bug during his university days and the Stradbroke was one of his first ever race day outings.
To think he might win that same race as an owner is a little overwhelming.
"It's very thrilling winning a race, any race, but I can't imagine what it would be like winning a Group 1 race," he said.
"I'll believe it if I see it, but by goodness I will enjoy it."
Originally published as Harrison out to make most of second chances