Ipswich-bred jockey riding high after Newmarket dream
HISTORY says the Newmarket is a tricky race to win, for any horse or jockey, and a race unlikely to be the first Group 1 winner for any jockey.
But Ipswich-bred jockey Regan Bayliss achieved it on Saturday.
The 19-year-old, who arrived in Melbourne in a "little truck'' with his brother Jake and his dad Jamie when Regan was 13, was overwhelmed by his feat.
"It might seem dippy to some people but this is all I've ever dreamed of whole my whole life,'' Bayliss said.
"I don't care about any other sport in the world. It's just horse racing. I live and breathe it.''
It was an odd race.
Some things hardly ever happen in racing. Some of the "can't do's'' don't seem to make sense. They seem achievable, but aren't.
Before Saturday, for instance, a horse hadn't won the Newmarket Handicap first-up in exactly 100 years. A horse called Polycrates was the last - exactly 100 years ago before Redkirk Warrior joined him.
Trainer David Hayes had long believed Redkirk Warrior was the best horse in his stable but he started $31 because it appeared history would crush him.
Not many horses go first-up in Newmarkets, partly because history said it was a waste of time but mainly because good sprinters run in Lightning Stakes and Oakleigh Plates before it.
Redkirk Warrior's surprisingly effortless win probably ranks among the genuine coups of Hayes' 87 Group 1 victories. Especially given the back story.
Redkirk Warrior's career began in England in 2014, where he won his first two starts over about 2000m. He then bobbed up in Hong Kong where he won at 1600m before fading out of the placings when favourite in the Hong Kong Derby.
He then bobbed up at Lindsay Park with bad feet and in need of a throat operation.
He impressed Hayes with a win at Sandown over 1500m last spring, beating Stratum Star, then bobbed up first-up in the Newmarket.
There was a fast strip about the width of six horses close to the inside rail and the Newmarket jockeys crammed to be in it, creating interference and a cramped tempo.
A handful of runners - Tavaci, Spieth, The Quarterback - were either pushed around or pushed into the worst part of the track.
Even horses who came from back in the field and widest to win, like Humidor in the Australian Cup, stayed as close to the inside as their riders could manage.
Bayliss had Redkirk Warrior cruising in second, outside Star Turn (third), before charging clear to win by two lengths.
"He bounced lot quicker than I thought ... he just travelled so well in the race,'' Bayliss said. "I tried get as close to the fence as I could but he just towed me past Star Turn.''
The Doncaster Mile is the next stop. He firmed from $51 to $15 after Saturday's win.