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One of the most formidable partnerships in Australasian jumps racing continued their undefeated record at Wanganui on Friday when winning the Brian FM Open Hurdle (2400m). Top New Zealand jumps jockey Aaron Kuru and Tallyho Twinkletoe were reunited for the first time since their historic Grand National Hurdle (4200m) and Steeplechase (4500m) double last year and the pair were able to pick-up where they left off, despite their 74kg impost.
Kuru took a patient approach with the Kevin Myers-trained gelding, settling towards the rear of the field. The son of St Reims was three lengths off the main pack heading down the back straight for the final time, however, Kuru’s patience paid off and Tallyho Twinkletoe was able to reel in his opposition and run away to a comfortable four-length victory on his home track.
Part-owner Jo Rathbone was thrilled with the performance, particularly under such a heavy weight. “It was quite comfortable in the end,” she said. “It didn’t look like it was going to be down the back straight, he was a wee way off them. “I was thinking to myself that he will need to be a very good horse to win from there, and he just did it so easy. It was amazing really, he looped them and won it with ease. “He is just such a good horse.”
Rathbone said they elected not to claim with the gelding, believing Kuru’s association with the horse was worth the extra weight. “We opted to go with Aaron rather than try and claim with him, just because he does know him. I think that can be worth more than the claim with some horses,” Rathbone said. “It certainly is tough on them to carry that much weight, especially on a heavy track like that. We had a lot of rain over the last few days and it does make it pretty hard on them.”
Tallyho Twinkletoe will now travel to Melbourne to join trainer Patrick Payne’s Plumpton stable ahead of attempting to defend his Grand National titles. “I don’t really know what Kevin and Patrick have worked out, but his ultimate goal is to go for those two Nationals,” Rathbone said. “I imagine he may have a run before that, whether that be jumping or on the flat I am not quite sure. “He is supposed to be flying over next week on the 15th, so there is a bit of time before that first National.”
Prior to next week’s trip, Tallyho Twinkletoe will undergo a precautionary vet inspection early next week. The rising 10-year-old showed a lot of promise as a younger horse, winning the Grand National Hurdles (4200m) at Riccarton five years ago, but he has been plagued by soundness issues ever since.
While Rathbone is looking forward to her horse heading across the Tasman once again, she said she has learnt to keep her excitement levels in-check because of his history. “You just have to try and not get too excited about these things because we have still got to get his leg checked out before he does get on the plane, but he seems okay at the moment,” Rathbone said. “We will get it scanned at the beginning of the week and make sure. We don’t want to send him over if there are any issues at all. He just has to get through that and he will be on a plane.”
Rathbone has spent plenty of time over the years caring for Tallyho Twinkletoe and she said a patient approach has been key in keeping him sound. “It took several years to get him back to the races after he won the National, just because he kept on having issues,” she said. “Longer and slower preparations and doing things a bit differently have been key. I only ever gallop him at the beach, it’s just a better surface. “I am always conscious about the tracks he is working on. “I think the main thing is taking your time and not rushing them at any stage in their preparation.”
With travel restrictions still in place, Rathbone won’t be able to fly over to watch her pride and joy in the flesh, but she said she is not overly perturbed about that. “We went over last year and we had a really good time,” she said. “I am not really too upset about not being able to go over because it just means I will be able to stay and watch the race with the other owners. “There is a big family of us who will be there to watch him and I think that means just as much, being able to watch it with everyone back here.”
The travel restrictions will also halt Kuru’s plans of tackling the Grand National features this year, opening up an opportunity for an Australian-based hoop to ride the exciting jumper.