The Toby Autridge-trained Tommyra returned to his best form over fences when he sprang a minor upset in taking out the Te Whangai Romneys Hawke’s Bay Hurdle (3100m) at Hastings.
The 2020 Waikato Hurdle (3200m) winner had been overlooked by many as punters gravitated towards topweight Tallyho Twinkletoe and the promising Bak Da Master to take out the feature hurdle event on the card.
Ridden aggressively by Shaun Phelan, who picked up the ride after Reece Cole was stood down following a fall in the first race on the card, Tommyra attacked pacemaker Bak Da Master with 1200m to run before poking his head in front turning for home.
Bak Da Master fell at the second last fence leaving Tommyra clear in front, where he clung gamely to the lead to defeat the fast finishing No Change and Tallyho Twinkletoe.
Autridge was thrilled he could get Phelan as a pinch hitter on his charge after Cole aggravated an existing hip issue in his earlier fall.
“I didn’t think the day was going to go too well after we lost our jockey, but I was thrilled Shaun could take the ride,” he said.
“He is one of the best jocks around and he took the incentive when the leader was getting it easy out in front.
“The better track today helped us out as he doesn’t really handle the deep stuff.
“That is going to make it tricky over the next couple of months so we might change tack and pop him into a maiden steeplechase at Trentham next, as he jumps well off both legs and that figure eight circuit at Trentham was made for him.”
While Cole had every reason to be disappointed to miss out on a winning ride, he could console himself with the knowledge he shares in the ownership of the rising ten-year-old in a group that also includes Autridge and his wife Deb.
Tommyra has now won nine races, with five of those over hurdles and over $197,000 in prizemoney.
Later in the day the second feature jumping event, the AHD Hawke’s Bay Steeplechase (4800m) was taken out by the Kevin Myers-trained Yardarm, who was also ridden by a replacement jockey in James Seivwright.
Seivwright picked up the ride after Sam O’Malley had to forego the mount due to suffering a heavy concussion and fractured vertebrae when Remarx fell heavily in the first hurdle race on the card.
Seivwright never put a foot wrong as he kept Yardarm in contact with the pacemakers Notabadrooster and Its A Wonder throughout before asserting control around the home bend.
Yardarm flew the last fence and raced away to register just his second career victory and first over the bigger fences after taking out a maiden hurdle event at Te Aroha back in July 2015.
The rising 12-year-old, who carries the colours of former champion galloper Mainbrace, was good enough to finish second in the 2017 Australian Grand National Steeplechase (4500m) but has been plagued by injury throughout his career and only returned to racing back in May after finishing sixth in the 2019 KS Browne Hurdle (3350m) at Ellerslie.
Seivwright was delighted to take the win but was feeling for O’Malley after the race.
“I’m ecstatic with that but it is a real shame for Sam to have to miss out through those circumstances,” he said.
“I knew the horse had the ability, but he has been unlucky over his career and has copped a number of injuries.
“He really just towed me around today and I didn’t have to do much at all. He made a mistake at the third last fence and when I gave him a squeeze he just took off.
“I didn’t realise I was in front by so much until I got to the winning post.”