Cully guides Krase to win Australian Steeplechase

It was a mistake that was quickly rectified, but for a short time after the Australian Steeplechase the big screen showed Fair Script as the winner instead of Krase.

After a tough couple of weeks for jumps racing, with two deaths and two ‘‘no races’’, the script for an incident-free day was played out to perfection in the premier jumps double at Sandown on Saturday.

All runners completed both the hurdle and the steeplechase safely, with the crowd excited by the thrilling finishes to both races.

In the Australian Steeplechase (3400 metres), Irishman Richard Cully, a man who towers over most riders, ended a week of torture to guide the heavily-supported Krase to an all-the-way win.

Last Sunday, Cully won a steeplechase at Casterton on Krase and for most of this week had starved himself to make the gelding’s weight of 64 kilograms on Saturday.

‘'If I bend over I’m just under six foot,’’ Cully said. ''I had Monday off and then back in the sauna Tuesday,’’ said the jockey.

After establishing a big lead in the middle stages, Krase ($2.80 favourite) was under siege at the last jump but under hard riding from Cully he rallied strongly to win by three-quarters-of-a-length lengths from Cats Fun ($3.3), with last year’s runner-up Zaman ($8) third.

‘'I was confident coming to the last but he didn’t come up out of my hands and had to pop it,’’ Cully said. ‘’Because he’s not the fastest horse in the world I had to pick him up and go again but to his credit it was a very good effort.''

Payne described Krase, who was sent to him this season by leading New Zealand jumps trainer Kevin ‘'Dummy'’ Myers, as an ‘‘old fashioned jumper’’.

‘'Special thanks to Dummy. He gave him a couple of jumping races back in NZ and thought he would be the ideal horse [for Melbourne],’’ Payne said.

The trainer said that Krase is likely to have a short break before being aimed at the $250,000 Grand National Steeplechase at Sandown on July 27.

While that might be a realistic aim, the trainer is not getting too far ahead of himself.

‘’The race worked out pretty well for him and he only won by a neck. He’ll get up in the weights so we might have had our birthday,’’ he said.

It was the second big win of the Victorian jumps season for Payne and Cully, who combined to win the Grand Annual Steeplechase at Warrnambool last month with Chaparro. On Saturday the pair just failed to make it three big wins in the Australian Hurdle (3400).

After sitting back in the field early on, Cully had urged Fieldmaster forward after the field jumped the third-last hurdle and he had raced through to hit the front and burst clear with 300 metres to travel.

Just as the crowd was about to start applauding, he started to shorten stride and the Darren Weir-trained veteran Gotta Take Care started to steam home down the outside after appearing well beaten just 200 metres beforehand.

Such was his finishing effort that Gotta Take Care ($2.25 favourite) picked up Fieldmaster ($2.60) inside the final 75 metres and went on to win by 2¼ lengths, with outsider Stand To Gain ($71) three lengths away in third.

‘'He travelled all right early but at the top of the hill I thought I was gone,’’ said Gotta Take Care’s rider, John Allen.

‘'After jumping the second-last I had just about given up but switched him to the outside he picked up and really tried. I was niggling him coming to the second-last so all credit to the horse.’’

The win was a triumph for brothers Graeme, Philip and Ian Wood, who bred Gotta Take Care and have seen him win 19 races, including a 2009 Hobart Cup and over $940,000 in prizemoney.

‘’My two brothers and I are just having the time of our lives,’’ Philip Wood said.

Earlier in his career, Wood said Gotta Take Care ‘'couldn’t run out of sight on dark night’’, and the owner paid tribute to Weir.

‘'Darren has done a fantastic job, he’s come from a horse that couldn’t win a county handicap, he put him over the jumps and given him some life.’’

This story Cully guides Krase to win Australian Steeplechase first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.