Former champion jockey Lance O’Sullivan captured five Gr.1 Railway (1200m) successes in the saddle and on Monday he finally got his hands on the silverware as a trainer, courtesy of Waitak’s explosive victory in the Sistema-sponsored feature.
As expected, Johny Johny set a breakneck speed upfront, while at the opposite end of the field, in-form hoop Warren Kennedy switched Waitak off at the back of the pack.
The son of Proisir was still well off the pace at the top of the straight, but he responded to the urgings of Kennedy in the final 200m, bursting through a gap that opened up when Mercurial ran out, checking Bonny Lass, and Waitak continued his momentum to score a 1-1/4 length victory over Bonny Lass, with Mercurial a further three-quarters of a length back in third.
O’Sullivan was duly jubilant with the result.
“Out of all the races that I personally wanted to be a part of winning as a trainer, it was certainly the Railway, and it has eluded me. This is Andrew’s third,” said O’Sullivan, speaking of co-trainer Andew Scott’s previous two training victories in the race.
O’Sullivan said the win was also a great tonic for Waitak’s breeder-owner Colin Devine.
“Also (it’s great) for Colin Devine and all his family, it is great to have him onboard. He is not keeping the best of health, but I am so delighted for him,” O’Sullivan said.
Waitak was given a Derby preparation as a three-year-old, where he ran fifth in the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) and 14th in the Gr.1 Queensland Derby (2400m) last year, and O’Sullivan is pleased they changed tack with their charge this campaign after he won first-up over 1300m last month.
“After his first-up win for the season we said he may just be a short track horse and took a punt today, and it came off,” he said.
“Trying to make him run in a Derby last year, we certainly got that wrong.”
O’Sullivan was also pleased for jockey Warren Kennedy, who with the win equalled O’Sullivan’s previous New Zealand record of riding six winners at a meeting, before surpassing it a race later aboard Habana in the Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m).
“I rode six many years ago on Derby Day. He is a fantastic jockey and his rides on all three of ours today were exceptional. I am very happy to have him on as opposed to against us,” O’Sullivan said.
Kennedy was openly surprised by the result, believing his charge may have been outclassed by his fellow sprinters prior to the race, but he was glad to have been proven wrong by his charge.
“Everyone, myself included, believed the six furlongs with these type of sprinters in the race, they might run a bit too quick for him,” he said.
“He jumped out really well and he was out the back where I thought he would be, but he was really comfortable in his run. They split open like the red sea in front of me and when I really asked him to run, he knuckled down and sprinted home. He gave me a really good sprint home, he ran past them like they weren’t there.”
It was a career-best haul for the expat South African, who is pleased he made the move to New Zealand and is grateful for the support he has received.
“All the support that I am getting makes this possible, so without that support I couldn’t be doing the things am doing,” he said. “I am very grateful and it has been a great start to the year.”
-Article by NZ Racing Desk