Gillies breaks Awapuni hoodoo

Gagarin (right) and Zedace are locked together as they jump the last fence in the Manawatu Steeplechase at Awapuni on Saturday - Peter Rubery (Race Images Palmerston North)
Gagarin (right) and Zedace are locked together as they jump the last fence in the Manawatu Steeplechase at Awapuni on Saturday

Peter Rubery (Race Images Palmerston North)

Talented jumps jockey Mathew Gillies was able to put his self-described Awapuni hoodoo to rest on Saturday when he rode home a winning double at his former home track.

The Cambridge horseman, who these days also trains in partnership in Cambridge with Graham Thomas, spent half a decade working at the Palmerston North track and said he was pleased to get the wins aboard Gallante and Gagarin.

“I worked on the course there for five years and it means a lot to go out and win those two races,” he said.

“It has been one of my hoodoo grounds, I have only ever won three races there in my whole career before (Saturday).

“I have a lot of seconds and thirds in those big races and it’s always been annoying me, that is why I was so happy and emotional after winning them on Saturday.”

Gillies suffered a serious race fall in 2016 when riding Gagarin at Trentham and he said it was great to get the win aboard the Kevin Myers-trained runner in the Manawatu Steepelchase (4200m) in his comeback season of riding.

“He caused my head injury, but that was just bad luck,” Gillies said. “I have forgiven him for that because he has been so good to me through the years. He jumped outstanding the other day and is a great horse to ride.”

Gillies said it was a big decision to return to raceday riding, but he is happy he did and is concentrating on the future.

“I had a conversation with my Dad a while ago, I said ‘is it alright with you if I come back’ and he said ‘If you come back 100 percent positive, I have no problems’.

“After the head injury I carried on riding and I probably shouldn’t have. I just didn’t know quite how bad it was. With head injuries, you don’t realise how bad you actually are.

“I wasn’t in the right frame of mind and lost all passion for it (riding). It’s all back now and I am 100 percent again. It’s good to be back and good to be back winning.”

While he was pleased to win aboard Gagarin, Gillies was delighted with the performance of dual Group One winner Gallante in the Awapuni Hurdles (2900m), winning the race by 12 lengths.

“He could have won by 20-plus lengths if I had put it to him. He won by 12 under a hold, I hadn’t even moved on him,” he said.

“I never thought in my entire career I would be riding a horse that has won two Group One races in a jumping race, it’s quite unbelievable.”

Both horses are being set to contest the major jumping races over the coming months and Gillies believes both geldings could be in for a lucrative winter.

“Gallante is going to Hawke’s Bay next and then we are going to Trentham again for the Wellington Hurdles and then down to the (Grand) National Hurdles, 4200m) I think,” Gillies said.

“It could be a wet National and that will be quite up his alley as well.

“The (Grand) National (Steeplechase, 5600m) is definitely on the cards (for Gagarin), and just the way he raced the other day the Pakuranga (Hunt Cup, 4900m) and (Great) Northern (Steeplechase, 6400m) might be on the cards if he is still racing well when that time come around.” – NZ Racing Desk


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