Trainers jump into role
For a pair of ex-jockey crocks, Toby Autridge and Cyril Goodwin have done well in the first month of their new season training partnership.
Perhaps I’m being unfair referring to the pair of 40-something-year-olds as crocks, but there’s no denying their resolve in recovering from injuries that could have ended the careers in racing of someone less determined.
Toby’s dice with injury during his high-profile jockey career was well “chronicled” on this page several weeks ago.
To recap, a dozen years ago he went as close to being paralysed as anyone would wish when involved in a serious race fall.
That spelt an end to a riding career that had included a photo-finish second in the Melbourne Cup and a Great Northern Hurdle-Steeplechase double, but in the past few years he has bounced back to establish a successful training and pre-training business at Peria Heights, the property he and his partner Debbie Montgomery have developed on the western outskirts of town.
Irishman Cyril Goodwin has been part of that development in the past 12 months, establishing his bona fides to be elevated from foreman to training partner with Toby when the new season began on August 1.
Cyril, a native of the Emerald Isle’s most southwestern province Kerry, rode successfully in both his homeland and the United States, and like Toby mixed those activities on the flat and over jumps.
“I was six years in the States, mostly in Kentucky and New York, and I rode 30, maybe 40 winners,” Cyril recalled.
“The race I remember most riding in was the Arlington Citation Challenge in Chicago on a horse by the name of Wild Thing. The race was staged specially for the champion Cigar to equal Citation’s record of 16 wins on end and he started as hot favourite.
“Cigar bolted in and as my valet said afterwards, the last time my horse was on level pegging with Cigar was when we were lined up in the starting gates!” Cyril’s weight when he returned to Ireland restricted him to jumps riding, and he added another 50-plus winners before eventually hanging up his saddle to concentrate on his role as foreman for Michael Halford, who trained on the Curragh in County Kildare.
Cyril emigrated to New Zealand in 2010, taking work as a trackwork rider in Matamata, but only months after arriving was in dire straits when he suffered a cerebral aneurism that saw him rushed to Waikato Hospital and placed on life support.
Things looked grim to begin with, but typical of the recuperative powers of a physically fit person, he astounded the medical experts by making a full recovery. It was still a long road back to full fitness, but once he received a clean bill of health and was capable of working again, Cyril joined the team at Peria Heights and hasn’t looked back.
“I’m as fit as a fiddle, never felt better,” said the likeable Irishman.
“Toby is a great bloke to work with – more like a brother than a boss – and I’m very grateful for the opportunity he’s given me.”
The partners’ season has got off to a very satisfying start, with a win and four minor placings from just a handful of starters.
The winner was Le Bon Fin, owned by Toby and Debbie, who won at Te Teko a fortnight ago, while last season’s stable star Boy has continued in good form with a third and a fourth in two starts for the partnership.
“We’ve got a nice little team with some young ones coming through,” said Toby. “It’s always good to have those two and three-yearolds to work with, but like most small stables the numbers could always be bigger.
“Still, that’s the stage we’re at and now it’s up to us to get the points on the board. That’s the best way of building our numbers.
“I see it as a bonus having Cyril on board. Our backgrounds are similar but he’s experienced a lot more of the world than I have and he’s able to bring some different ideas to how we do things.”
Great Northern day at Ellerslie on the weekend didn’t quite produce an historic result for the Peter Brosnan-trained Southern Countess as she attempted to become the first mare to win consecutive Great Northern Hurdle.
With an extremely brave effort she went down by just a neck to up-and-coming Te Aroha jumper Waitoki Ahi, to whom she conceded four kilograms, a telling difference at the end of the 4190-metre slog.
Matamata-trained runners were thin on the ground at Ellerslie but one of their number, the Richard Coxon-trained and part-owned Gurus Spirit, once again showed her liking for the track with a smart winning performance.
She also scored there back in June, added another at Tauranga in July, and now as a fully matured six-year-old is shaping as if the rise in class to open grade won’t unduly challenge her.
Career change: Matamata’s newest licensed trainer, Irishman Cyril Goodwin.