Sale-based jockey Kate Walters landed the biggest win of her riding career at Flemington last Saturday, executing a daring front-running ride aboard her favourite horse, Choysa, to take the $120,000 Trevor Clarke Handicap (2500m).
Amazingly, Choysa went to the gates a $12 chance, despite his luckless sixth in the listed $200,000 Andrew Ramsden Stakes (3200m) at Flemington on May 19. Some form experts were of the opinion the New Zealand-owned and -bred seven-year-old would have finished closer to first with even luck.
Trained by Kate’s dad, veteran conditioner Wayne Walters, Choysa worked to the lead as they went out the straight the first time last Saturday, and that was the last his rivals saw of him.
Traveling smoothly and holding a commanding 20-length lead as they went past Chicquita Lodge 1200 metres from home, Choysa never looked like being caught.
Perfectly rated by Walters, Choysa defied the chasing pack in the straight and had almost three lengths to spare on the line from $4 favourite Lycurgus.
Walters has ridden 332 winners in a career that began at Kerang on April 22, 2002. Her first engagement that day was partnering Sweet Belle to a well beaten 12th for her father.
Her CV includes 11 Adelaide metro wins and two melbourne midweek wins (both at Sandown on Choysa) but last weekend’s win was her first at Saturday level in Melbourne.
Choysa’s win was the jockey’s 146th for her father and her first in a race worth more than $100,000.
Walters was delighted to make amends for the Ramsden run.
“Last start we drew barrier one and didn’t jump well,” she said. “I was in behind other horses and he got pulling really hard and I had nowhere to go.
“Today I needed to get him into his own rhythm and let him relax underneath me.
“If you start fighting on his mouth, he’ll beat you every time as he’s too big and strong.”
Walters wasn’t aware how far she was in front of the chasing pack and didn’t dare to look over her shoulder.
“I got beaten as an apprentice at Manangatang doing that one day so that’s something I don’t ever do,” she said.
Walters isn’t shy about her love for the stable favourite.
“He’s just the best. I love him, that’s why I call him my second husband.”
“He’s such a big strider, he can just travel there, and he can quicken off a fast speed as well,” she said.
Team Walters has had 111 starters for eight winners since making the move to Sale in February from their long-time base at Mount Gambier.
Choysa (four wins), Ali Orphan (three) and impressive recent Sale winner That Said have kept the momentum rolling.
Although that strike rate is not outstanding, Walters’s runners do offer plenty of value for punters, his eight winners starting at $26, $18, $10, $21, $4, $4.20, $13 and $12 respectively.
Choysa is owned by the Smithies family of New Zealand’s Monovale Farm, the family carrying on the legacy of patriarch Paul, a prominent and highly respected Waikato breeder who died suddenly in July 2016 at the age of 56.
The Smithies family own the majority of the 40-strong Walters team.
Sons Joe and Max head up the operation these days, under the watchful eye of mum Cushla.
The family have bred a number of Group 1 performers at Monovale Farm, as well as racing Group 1 New Zealand Derby and Thorndon Mile winner Puccini, who now stands at Mapperley Stud.
Paul and Cushla Smithies bred and sold Puccini’s outstanding half-brother Sir Slick, who won six Group 1 races.
Saturday’s victory was the 11th of Choysa’s 53-start career. The son of the great Zabeel has now banked $233,916 for connections.
The inaugural running of the $300,000 Haymes Paint Jericho Cup (4600m) at Warrnambool on December 2 looks a perfect long-term goal for the big bay. The race is restricted to horses bred in Australia and New Zealand.
The 2018 Jericho Cup marks the 100th anniversary of the original Jericho Cup, held towards the end of the World War One.
At the time, the Australian Light Horse was planning a major offensive against the Ottoman Empire. To lull the enemy into believing nothing unusual was afoot, a race meeting was organised on the eve of the assault.
The Jericho Cup was the main race, run over three miles through the desert sands.
The winner was Bill the Bastard, probably Australia’s greatest warhorse. His exploits are detailed in the book Bill the Bastard, by Roland Perry.
The Jericho Cup will honour Bill the Bastard, the Australian Light Horsemen and their magnificent mounts, the Walers.
The race promises to be a great spectacle, especially if Choysa adopts his trademark catch-me-if-you can tactics.