New Zealand raider Nassak Diamond (NZ) (Roc de Cambes) became the first New Zealand trained horse to win the 4600 metre Jericho Cup with a dominant win at Warrnambool on Sunday.
The Jericho Cup was established in 2018 to commemorate the feats of Australasia’s light horse units during World War I and is restricted to horses bred in either Australia or New Zealand.
Trained by Shaun Ritchie and Colm Murray for breeders The Oaks Stud, the five-year-old hadn’t raced for nearly a month, finishing seventh over just 2400 metres at Pukekohe last start.
The race was run at a decent speed, but saw little change for the majority of the trip, as Da Deputy controlled proceedings at a strong gallop.
However, as they hit the tricky right-hand turn to start the run home, the field somehow ended up seven, even eight abreast down the back straight.
A perfect gap opened up for Nassak Diamond, and jockey Campbell Rawiller set his mount alight, taking a commanding lead rounding the home bend and leaving key rivals flat-footed.
The race was a one-act affair in the straight, with seven lengths the official margin on the line.
Favourite Sunday Buzz (NZ) (Zed) just nosed out Mr Fabulous for second, but to paraphrase commentator Ric McIntosh, they were in one race while the winner was in another.
Ritchie, whose father Frank trained the legendary Bonecrusher, said they were aiming for the race last year but elected to skip it.
“We were tempted to try and get her here last year, but I’m pleased we didn’t,” he said.
“She wasn’t quite strong enough, but she was strong enough today, wasn’t she?
“She was fantastic three starts back in the lead-up race… she’s no Bonecrusher, but she was wonderful today.”
He praised Jericho Cup founder Bill Gibbons for the spectacle, which saw a massive crowd flock to the Bool on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
“This is a wonderful thing Bill Gibbons has started here, and good luck to them,” he said.
“The momentum’s picking up and I think we’ll need a lot better horses in the future, I’d say, to win races like this.”
Rawiller was immensely proud of his mount, who was extra impressive considering the dry conditions.
“I was doing a rain dance all week, but we got it on the wrong side of the state,” he said.
“But she didn’t need the rain today … she was so, so dominant, she’s a real athlete.
“I’m so lucky, my first sit on the horse and she’s come to the races like that.
“I’ll get the accolades, but she was a real sit and steer job today.”