Jonathan Riddell completes a hat-trick with victory in the Rotorua Cup on Highlad.
Cambridge jockey Jonathan Riddell capped a big week with an Arawa Park hat-trick rounded off by victory on Highlad in today’s Gr. 3 Campbell Infrastructure Rotorua Cup.
The former leading jumps jockey’s run of form began with a double at Te Rapa last Saturday, continued with a win at Te Awamutu on Wednesday riding a horse trained by his wife Trina and the day later added a Woodville double for Cambridge trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman.
“It’s just a matter of getting on the right horses, simple as that,” Riddell said through the mud that caked him and fellow jockeys during a torturous running of the Rotorua Cup. “The past week has been good and to win a race like this sure makes it all worthwhile.”
Baker and Forsman went into today with an unassailable lead in their quest for another trainers’ premiership and without blinking produced two winners at Rotorua and one at New Plymouth to take them to 113 wins, one short of the record they set when claiming their first title in 2014-15.
They prepare Highlad for long-time stable client Scott Richardson, who is in hospital awaiting liver surgery and would have taken a lot of satisfaction from the big bay’s career-high performance.
Riddell rode a clever race on Highlad, giving him an easy time behind the leading division before sending him forward at the midway point. Even at that stage many of his rivals were raising the white flag in the increasingly strung-out field, but Highlad was relentless, striding forward on the outside of the new leader Hunta Pence before the home turn.
Angling wider still, Riddell did his best to hold Highlad together while maintaining his momentum and the horse did the rest, forging clear to score by three lengths from 2016 Rotorua Cup winner Storming The Tower. He was well back in the running and arrived late on the scene to grab second from Joe Cargo, who had been on the pace throughout.
Hunta Pence weakened to fourth ahead of the early leader Peso. Amongst those who failed whatsoever to handle the conditions were last-start Hawke’s Bay Cup winner Richie McHorse, who was under pressure at the back of the field with all of a round to go and crossed the line last, 58 lengths from the winner.
The honours clearly belonged to Highlad, however. “”He was too big and strong for them,” said Riddell, who moved north with his family from Palmerston North last season when his wife Trina took a foreman’s position with the Baker/Forsman stable.
“He didn’t really handle the ground but he kept going. He didn’t feel so good when he had to come off the bit, but he had them covered and won pretty easily in the end.”