Clayton Douglas is no stranger to riding through the paddocks of Warrnambool’s famous steeplechase course but says riding over it in a flat race is a different experience.
Last year Douglas won the Grand Annual Steeplechase (5500m) on Gold Medals during the annual three-day carnival in May.
He returned seven months later to win the inaugural Jericho Cup (4600m), Australia’s longest flat race, on the Anthony Freedman-trained High Mode.
Douglas rides Da Deputy in the second instalment of the race at Warrnambool on Sunday.
The Jericho Cup is run to commemorate the original three-mile race held in the desert sands of Jericho in 1918 and won by ‘Bill the Bastard’, arguably Australia’s greatest war horse.
The steeplechase course, starts and finishes within the confines of the Warrnambool racecourse, but crosses roads and is partly raced through open paddocks.
The horses make two trips through the paddocks, the first time the field returns to the course proper they swing left-handed, the second, right-handed.
“Last year it seemed really odd that there were no jumps where we were going and they put up a running rail which gave it a completely different feel,” Douglas said.
“For the jumpers to go through the paddocks they normally have to school through it, so a lot of these horses haven’t seen that sort of open country before.”
Trained by Lindsay Park, Da Deputy has shown he is an out-and-out stayer.
He won his maiden racing left-handed at Mornington over 2400m while his other two wins have been right-handed at Wagga over 3200m and 3800m.
“I think that shows he’s quite adaptable for the course and this sort of race as going over the roads and that sort of thing can bring them unstuck,” Douglas said.
“It doesn’t matter how well they can stay, if they’re not adapting to the surfaces and the change of direction, they can fire up and over-race.
“Hopefully my bloke can switch off and do it all right.”