It was no surprise that Roger James had to watch a replay of the Gr.2 Valachi Downs Championship Stakes at Ellerslie on Saturday to appreciate the winning performance of The Hassler.
The Cambridge trainer had the two favourites in the three-year-old event, but watched in horror as his filly Romantic Maid dropped rider Danielle Johnson after appearing to clip heels when vying for the lead leaving the home straight the first time.
James, like almost everyone on course, was more concerned about Johnson lying on the track than the race and wasn’t able to fully concentrate on The Hassler.
“To be honest I didn’t watch a lot of the race,” said James. “I was watching Danielle and I learnt more (of The Hassler’s win) when I saw it for the first time in the winner’s circle.
“Being on course, it was sickening watching them come down the straight as the jockeys weren’t aware Danielle was still lying on the track and they were all but on her.
Medical staff attend to Danielle Johnson after her fall from Romantic Maid.
“Vinnie (Colgan) had to haul The Hassler to the side after the post that hard he all but came off. If he hadn’t he would have ended up right beside Danielle.”
A group, including medical staff and officials, were at Johnson’s side as she lay on the track and fortunately the other jockeys were able to steer their mounts away from the fallen rider upon crossing the finishing line.
After losing Johnson, who was later taken to hospital with a suspected shoulder injury, the riderless Romantic Maid raced around the field to head off the reefing pacemaker Ronchi, while The Hassler raced comfortably behind the duo.
The Hassler worked to the lead inside the 800 metres and kept up a strong gallop to win by a length and a quarter from Zambezi Warrior, who ran on strongly ahead of Sonorous.
“I am delighted for the owners of The Hassler, but gutted for the other owner of Romantic Maid,” said James.
“In effect it has cost her getting to Brisbane. I do rate her and the big reason she was running in this race was to get enough prize money to get over there and also prove she is up to it.”
James was planning to contest the Doomben Roses and Queensland Oaks with Romantic Maid.
On the other hand, The Hassler has continued to step up to the mark. The son of Shocking has now won four of his 11 starts and almost $100,000 in prize money.
“Since January he’s won four races and not many do that as a three-year-old,” said James.
- Cambridge JC | Pic: Trish Dunell