A change of tactics devised by Cessnock trainer Jeremy Sylvester and history making jockey Robert Thompson led to the win of former “slow coach” Settlers in the opening event of Saturday’s Newcastle race meeting, the 900 metre 3-year-old Maiden Handicap. Settlers had failed to greet the judge in seven previous starts and in three of his past five starts he has led into the home straight. On Saturday with plenty of speed in the 900-metre scamper, Thompson held the three-year-old up in fourth place behind the fast pace and he raced past the leaders to win by three quarters of a length. Musical Query which was given no peace in front was courageous in finishing second a neck ahead of Kennywyn.
It was a windfall for Sylvester and co-owner Thor McDowell, a Newcastle financial advisor. In addition to the first prize of $16,800 there was a $5000 BOBS bonus for the winner. Sylvester and Thompson are close friends - in fact Sylvester was best man at Thompson’s wedding. The former Cessnock baker learnt the art of thoroughbred training from the jockey’s late father Arthur.
He told of Settlers turn around after the race. “This horse was that slow earlier in his career I thought he would end up in the bakers’ cart. I sent him to Tamworth for a non-TAB Maiden and he finished last. He finished worse than midfield at Tuncurry. Settlers original owners bailed out and I leased the horse and Thor came in with me. He led in a 900-metre race at Newcastle last start but there was a lot more speed today so I said to Robert what about riding him off the speed and he agreed. The prizemoney was great and we will probably head back to the bush for a Class 1 now.”
Two races later Thompson chalked up a double when promising Rosehill three-year-old Cordero saluted in the 1400 metre colts and geldings Maiden Plate. Thompson has enjoyed a successful association with Champion trainer John Hawkes over the years, who trains Cordero with his two sons Michael and Wayne. The three-year-old has only had two starts and his fast finishing third at Canterbury on April 17 was an eye catcher. The extra 200 metres on Saturday on the roomy Newcastle track was expected to provide Cordero with his initial victory.
Michael Hawkes was impressed. “This horse has been immature and we knew the 1400 on the big track was what he needed. Cordero is a smart horse and he will continue to go forward with experience. He is a half-brother to Messini a good horse we trained. The family has had a good association with Robert Thompson. He is a terrific rider and he rode this horse perfectly.” Hawkes said.
For Thompson, it was win number 4271 for the Australian and Newcastle Hunter Hall of Famer and the 58-year-old was full of praise for Cordero and the Newcastle track. “He is a nice horse in the making. The horse doesn’t know a lot but he is all class. In six months’ time Cordero will reach his peak. I want to give this new Newcastle track a huge rap. It has a magnificent surface and it is like the Broadmeadow of old. We won’t ride on a better track anywhere. It is a beauty and a credit to Peter Birch and his staff,” RT said.
Jeff Penza extended his lead in the Newcastle Jockey’s Premiership with a treble and John O’Shea produced two staters which were both successful.