The Neil O’Dowd-trained Aigne booked his ticket to a unique Australian feature when he strode clear in the run home to take out the NZB Airfreight Road To The Jericho (3210m) at New Plymouth. The race carried a special bonus with a guaranteed start in the A$300,000 Haymes Paint Jericho Cup (4600m) at Warrnambool on December 1 on offer.
The Jericho Cup was established to commemorate the centenary of a race run on the desert sands in Palestine in World War I to divert attention from the Australian Light Horse’s charge at Beersheba. The race is restricted to Australian and New Zealand-bred horses with the inaugural event won by the New Zealand-bred High Mode in 2018.
Successful over hurdles at Rotorua in his most recent start, Aigne was rock-hard fit for Saturday’s contest and so it proved as he comprehensively outstayed his rivals for apprentice rider Charlotte O’Beirne. Sent forward to dispute the pace after beginning smartly from a midfield barrier, Aigne dropped the bit nicely for O’Beirne as the pair took a trail behind topweight Zentangle. Grand National Hurdle (4200m) winner Alfie Dee increased the pace when he took over in front with a lap to run however O’Beirne had Aigne off the rail and chasing immediately afterwards.
Taking over at the 600m, Aigne shot six lengths clear and retained a comfortable margin to the winning post as he held the challenges of last year’s runner up Where Are You and race-favourite Hurry Cane.
O’Dowd, who also owns the Sufficient seven-year-old, was quick to breathe a sigh of relief after the race as he explained how he had spent most of the day trying to keep his charge calm before stepping out on the track. “I’ve had him in the sand roll since we got here (on track) to try and keep him quiet,” he said. “We let him out and away he goes. “I couldn’t have got him any better as he was really well.”
O’Dowd also confirmed that he would take up the offer to travel to The Jericho Cup with an-all expenses paid trip funded by race sponsor, New Zealand Bloodstock’s Air Freight division, part of the day’s prize package. “That’s the plan,” he said. “He will go for a little bit of a spell now and then come back in and we will go (to the Jericho Cup).”
The victory was Aigne’s sixth from 26 career starts and added to a red-letter day for the younger riding brigade at New Plymouth with five of the first six races taken by apprentice jockeys.