Pride of Jenni blitzes, and opposition jockeys cry poor

14 APRIL 2024
Author

CAMERON ROSE

EDITOR

Was it the race of the century? It was certainly the win of the decade.

Pride of Jenni sent shivers down the spine of every racing fan on Saturday, setting up a 40 length lead in the Queen Elizabeth before going on to win by six and a half. It was bold, brilliant and beautiful.

Her 2023-24 campaign presumably concludes with a third Group 1 win, alongside an All Star Mile victory, as well as two second-place finishes at the highest level. Her high octane racing style has set the Australian racing scene alight, and now has her favourite for Horse of the Year honours, something largely unthinkable in a season where we’ve had Without A Fight pull off the Caulfield Cup / Melbourne Cup double.

The aftermath of the Queen Elizabeth was essentially twofold – those marvelling at Pride of Jenni’s front-running feats, and those wondering how she was able to achieve it, and could the chasing pack of jockeys and horses have done anything to stop her winning. Most were doing both.

The 2000m of the Queen Elizabeth can be split into 10 x 200m splits. For the first six of these during the race, Pride of Jenni ran the quickest sectionals of any horse in the field. Put simply, her lead extended every 200m for the first 1200m of the race.

For the last four 200m splits, she was by far the slowest horse in each section. There was no in-between for Pride of Jenni. Most horses are at their peak in the back half of a race, when they sprint for the finish line once it’s in sight. Pride of Jenni does the reverse – she is happy to use more energy in the first half of a race, break her opponents hearts, and sow the seeds of confusion in the opposition jockeys.

The question is, what can the others jockeys do. We saw on Saturday that some of them in the Queen Elizabeth lacked any grace and class when asked to comment after the race.

James McDonald, on even-money favourite Via Sistina, had only one word – “Embarrassing”. There was no doubt that he was directing his anger at Craig Williams, or at least the jockeys that were sitting second and third, leading the chasing pack.

Ben Melham on Cascadian offered some more context – “The race was over after three furlongs (600m), the second and third horses should have tacked up. She was always going to win in a scenario like that.”

After seeing those comments, I actually needed to re-watch the race, just to be sure that McDonald and Melham weren’t asked to compete on pushbikes. As it turned out, they did both have one horse each under them.

Melham won the Australian Cup two weeks ago on Cascadian, beating Pride of Jenni and Mr Brightside, both of which finished in front of him in the Queen Elizabeth. He judged his ride perfectly at Flemington, and poorly on Saturday at Randwick.

McDonald could have made a move at any time during the race, if he felt that his horse wasn’t in the best position to run down Pride of Jenni. Newsflash to James: you’re allowed to go as fast as you want to, the rules of racing don’t demand that you sit back in the field and cuddle your horse.

So how do opposition jockeys tackle Pride of Jenni from now on?

Craig Williams on Mr Brightside has now seen it four times. He was accused of settling too far back (10th) in the All Star Mile, when he ran second to Pride of Jenni. It then turned out he sat too close (second) in the Australian Cup, and ended up running fifth. Back in the spring he settled in fourth in the Champions Mile, and could only finish second there too.

Mr Brightside has now met Pride of Jenni twice over 1600m and twice over 2000m. He’s sat forward, back, and handy, and hasn’t been able to beat her.

If you press too far forward while Pride of Jenni is setting a hectic pace, your horse may get cooked. If you settle too far back, as the Queen Elizabeth field did, then you won’t catch her.

The Australian Cup was run in quicker time than the Queen Elizabeth, albeit on a faster track, but Pride of Jenni didn’t go out anywhere near as hard there as she did on Saturday. Perhaps she needs to go even faster and faster, and bring jockey psychology into it from this point on.

Sometimes a fast horse is just too good, and there are no excuses for the beaten brigade. And maybe Pride of Jenni has had a peak six months, and won’t be able to do it again in the spring.

For Australian racing’s sake, let’s hope she can. It will certainly be a Cox Plate to remember if she can get there in the same form as she is in right now.

1 Comment

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Bob
15 April 2024

100% agree with this article. Pride of Jenni is a battler's favourite, not an establishment favourite it seems. I think she rubs the Establishment the wrong way. She works hard for her wins, unlike the others.

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