New Zealand jumps jockey Aaron Kuru took home one of the biggest scalps in his riding career on Sunday after taking out the Grand National Hurdle (4200m) aboard Kiwi jumper Tallyho Twinkletoe at Sandown.
Just 24 hours earlier Kuru was without a ride in the race, however, a fall at Riccarton on Saturday ruled out original rider Matthew Gillies.
Kuru was already flying to Melbourne to ride in the meeting and last season’s premiership winning jumps jockey was only too happy to oblige when asked to take the ride.
He duly rewarded the connections of the nine-year-old gelding when scoring by nearly five lengths in the A$250,000 contest.
Kuru was delighted to get the win aboard the Patrick Payne-trained gelding, but had mixed emotions given the circumstances around attaining the ride.
“I was lucky enough to get on for this ride,” he said. “It was unfortunate for Matt Gillies back home, I do feel for him, but I am very happy. I picked up a very nice ride and I am glad we delivered.”
While officially trained by Payne, Tallyho Twinkletoe had been prepared in New Zealand by Wanganui horseman Kevin “Dummy” Myers up until just days before the race.
“He only arrived at my place at 11pm on Wednesday night and he was at Ballarat the following morning at seven o'clock to qualify," Payne said. "So I'm only the fake trainer.
"All thanks to the "Dummy" Myers team back in New Zealand and a special thanks to Jo Rathbone (part-owner) who is close to this horse.
"She has spent a lot of time with him at the beach."
Kuru echoed those sentiments and was rapt to get the victory for Myers.
“I don’t get many rides for him, so I am glad I could pick up a win in Australia,” Kuru said.
“He does a great job and Jo Rathbone, she has done a lot in the New Zealand ranks and she has a lot to play in this horse’s success.
“It was a massive team effort and I am over the moon.”
Kuru was also delighted that the win came aboard a New Zealand horse and he is hoping for more success on Australian soil in the future.
“That’s always the goal for the Kiwi riders, to get a bit of a go in Australia,” he said.
“We can compete, we just need the horses. It was satisfying riding a Kiwi horse, with myself being a Kiwi, it was really thrilling.”
It was the second Grand National Hurdle victory for Tallyho Twinkletoe, with the son of St Reims winning the New Zealand equivalent at Riccarton in 2005.
“His record back home in New Zealand is pretty outstanding and he is still pretty untapped at the moment,” Kuru said.
He will now be set to try and add a Grand National Steeplechase (4500m) trophy to the mantle when he contests the A$350,000 race at Ballarat on August 25.
The two Australian assignments were earmarked by Myers when he sent the gelding to Payne and his new trainer believes Tallyho Twinkletoe is more adept at jumping the bigger fences.
“He (Myers) named this horse and said he was coming over for the two Nationals,” Payne said.
"That was probably a pretty good barometer for this race, but I must admit I'm a little bit surprised as I thought he jumped the steeples better the other day than the hurdles and I thought he'd be better for next time.
"He's proven me wrong which he's allowed to do.
“All going well, if he pulls up well he will head there (Grand National Steeplechase).” – NZ Racing Desk