Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Rodd Squad

What with all the jockeys whose names made their way into the last chapter, I ought to mention the great one who showed up here last week: the Melbourne Cup- and Cox Plate-winning hoop Michael Rodd. He and his wife Cara are two of a party of six Aussies who are currently on holiday in the UK, and it was my real pleasure to spend some time with them last week on the Newmarket leg of their tour. The trip was organised by Michael's long-standing friend Barry Wallace and his wife Sue (seen on the left of this photograph). Barry has an interesting background. He was apprenticed at Hawera in his native New Zealand to Brian Deacon, who I believe was also responsible for Greg Childs (of Sunline fame), Gary Stewart (of Bonecrusher fame) and Jim Walker (of Veandercross fame). He subsequently became foreman in Melbourne for Angus Armanasco and Rob McGuiness at Caulfield before being a trainer in his own right, at Flemington from the mid-'80s to the early '90s and subsequently in Sydney at Rosehill. This touring party which he and Sue have currently arranged consists of a great bunch of people. I think that they enjoyed July week in Newmarket, and I know that my enjoyment of July week was greatly increased because of their presence. They are shown above posing with Jenny Dawson (of course, bearing in mind that she has some Aussie part-owners) in her day-yard, while a further brahma was added to the visit: one of the group, Clive, apparently had had a bet that he would get on a horse while he was in Newmarket. I am sure that this was a bet which he had expected to lose - but, once I'd found out about it, he was sure to win, as this photograph of him on the long-suffering Panto shows! Michael is, of course, more often seen being led into winner's enclosures (such as in this photograph, taken at Ballarat last year) but he clearly hasn't forgotten how to lead a horse either. All in all, it was just such a pleasure to spend some time with some really nice people - and some distinguished ones too, because not only has Michael been hugely successful (22 Group One wins so far is a massive total for someone who has probably only been riding for around ten years) but another of the Group, Bill Burt, was part-owner of one of the greatest Cox Plate winners ever (Dulcify) as well as of a VRC Derby winner (Redding). Not that you'd know it: meeting Michael you'd struggle to believe how successful he is, because the streak of ruthlessness which is generally required to make it to the top of any profession, but particularly jockeying, is impossible to discern in him.

Michael's compatriot Damien Oliver was also in town last week (obviously, as he rode Nicconi - pictured below, with his compatriots Alverta and Tye Angland in the background - in the July Cup). Michael had been in Britain for a short period last month as he'd ridden Gold Trail in the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, but he'd only made a brief visit as he'd ridden the Queensland Derby winner three days before that race and had then gone home straight afterwards. Damien made his British assignment less fleeting and he duly fronted up in Luca's yard to ride out on Thursday morning, when he managed to find just about the only morning of the month in which a bit of rain fell. By my reckoning, Luca has at least five horses in the stable who could be regarded as potential Melbourne Cup horses, so I don't know if we should take it as a tip that Drunken Sailor (pictured above) was the horse aboard whom he slung Damien. Mind you, the horse was a beaten favourite at York yesterday so I wouldn't be rushing to nominate him as the stable's selected just yet. Purple Moon remains my selected as he's in my XII To Follow, although I don't know whether the plan is for him to have another crack at the race in the 2007 edition of which he and Damien were collared by Michael Rodd and Efficient in the dying strides. No doubt all will become clearer as the summer progresses.

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