LANE BIDS SAYONARA TO VANQUISHED CUP RIVALS
THE persuasive powers of star jockey Damian Lane and the might of the Japanese pulled off a Caulfield Cup heist yesterday when northern raider Mer De Glace saluted in a rough-house version of the $5 million feature.
Lane's biggest Australian success came when he made a perfectly timed run, piloting the $8 chance to a one-length victory over the fast-finishing local Vow And Declare ($8) with Mirage Dancer ($16) in third place.
The race took just over 150 seconds to run but, in reality, the plan to win this year’s Caulfield Cup was hatched way back in June when Lane saluted on Mer De Glace in the Naruo Kinen in Japan.
It was his second win on the horse — who has now won six in a row — and immediately after that race he set about trying to convince trainer Hisashi Shimizu to bring the horse out to Australia.
Shimizu and the horse’s owner, U. Carrot Farm’s Dr H Akita, were concerned about the weight the five-year-old horse would be allocated and wondered if the trip Down Under might be in the horse's best interests.
But Lane kept pushing. And pushing. Eventually, they relented.
Yesterday, the three of them — a onetime kid from Bunbury in Western Australia, and the two Japanese horse lovers — united in a crowded mounting yard at Caulfield, as the rain eased off after coming down in waves just prior to the race.
“I planted the seed after the second time I won on him,” the 25-year-old jockey said. “Connections were really happy to come because it looked like he was going to get 53kg. Then he won again and it was questionable because he was going to go up to 55kg. There were a few moments when they thought it might have been too much for him.
“But I pushed my manager here, Adam Harrington, who helps me with my rides and interpreting in Japan. I just pushed him to make it happen.”
“I begged them to come because I knew 55kg was still a winnable weight. I’m forever grateful they brought him out here.
Lane's extended stint in Japan earlier this year paid huge dividends at the time. It has now helped him land his first win in one of Victoria’s big three spring majors.
Before he left for Japan in April, he said he wanted to travel to make himself a better rider, but “finding a Cups horse would be a real bonus”.
“I would say from that run, he (Mer Glace) would go on towards the M bourne Cup, but we will wait and see w weight (penalty) he gets,” Lane said.
“(The Caulfield Cup) is a great thr it has been a long-range plan and it ha
come together. It’s a big effort from everyone involved to get here.”
Lane described Mer De Grace as “not much to look at but he’s just a tradesman”.
“He just keeps turning up and winning. Not many horses win five on the bounce in Japan because they are all weight-for-age races so they go up steep every time,” the jockey said.
One of the trainers who supported Lane early in his career, Simon Zahra, said the jockey’s willingness to get his hands dirty stood him out as a talent.
“He was a young kid when he walked through the door and now he's a freak,” Zahra said. “He's always so cool and that's the one thing that is always in his favour.”
Jockey Damian Lane roars to the big crowd as Mer De Glace wins the Group 1 Caulfield Cup yesterday, and (bottom) Lane salutes the fans after pulling off a riding masterclass on the fast-finishing Japanese stayer he convinced connections to bring to Australia. Pictures: Getty Images and AAP