A hat-trick and a career-first black-type win at Rotorua today proved the perfect finale to Sam Weatherley’s championship season.
Weatherley’s winning sequence began on the Murray Baker/Andrew Forsman-trained Bowie, followed by Gentil Tonton in the Woods Contracting Taumarunui Gold Cup and completed by a six-length romp on the Kevin Myers-trained Mandalay.
Those three wins took Weatherley’s tally for the season to 67 and a clear-cut win in the apprentice jockeys’ premiership. Having ridden eight winners after beginning his apprenticeship with Lance O’Sullivan in June last year, he hasn’t looked back this season.
Ironically, Gentil Tonton was until recently trained by O’Sullivan and his partner Andrew Scott, but today was having his second start for Cambridge trainer John Bell.
“I had ridden the horse in his last couple of starts for us and I was happy when John decided to keep me on,” the 18-year-old said. “When it rained during the week I thought the ground would be perfect for him today, but then the rain stopped and it’s quite puggy.
“It wasn’t his favourite ground and he never really travelled in the run, but the solid pace up front suited him and he really dug in the last bit.
The Irish-bred son of champion European stayer Yeats took the $65,000 feature by half a length from course specialist Pump Up The Volume, who put up a big effort under 59.5 kilograms after being second-last through the middle stages.
Jochen Rindt gave his all trying for his second win in the race, leading until the challengers came and going down by just over a length. Stokers Rock fought on after being in the party on the turn to be next across the line, while the well fancied Francis Drake finished fifth after also looking likely at the top of the straight.
Gentil Tonton’s sixth win from 27starts was a windfall for John Bell, who now also owns the six-year-old.
“When I was approached to take the horse it was on the understanding that it would be for his Hong Kong owner, but then I got word that he didn’t want to continue with him. You could say I’m happy the way things have worked out.
“When he came to me I decided to change things around, take off the blinkers and tongue-tie, replace the ring bit with a snaffle and give him different work.
“He’s gradually come round and this week knowing what a clean-winded horse he is, he did minimal fast work and came to the races a happy horse.”