The mindset of jockeys changed from the time video race replays became available in the 1970’s.
In the pre video era a jockey could put in a “shocker” and it was soon forgotten by form students.
In the 1950’s, the legendary George Moore went to great personal expense to have Sydney metropolitan races filmed for his own use. He was the only one doing it and it gave him a huge advantage over rival jockeys.
Moore and other top jockeys won many races by making surprise moves. If they got beaten they were spared the backlash from those who’d watched the replay a dozen times. They had nothing to lose by taking a throw at the stumps.
In recent decades Australian jockeys have lacked the flair of some of the great riders of previous generations. They’ve been absolutely terrified of doing anything on impulse, just in case it made them look stupid. More to the point, made them look stupid over and over again on that infernal video replay.
I thought I was watching a race from another era, when Travis Wolfgram made a spectacular move on a gelding called Terwilliker on the Kenso track last week.
The pace was very slow in a 2400 metres BM70 and Wolfgram found himself near last turning into the back straight. He suddenly swept around twelve horses and was in front in a twinkling.
He won the race by a whisker because his impulse proved correct. Had the decision gone to Castel Sant’Angelo, Travis would still be copping the flak.
Tim Clark is one modern day Sydney jockey who loves to lead when presented with the opportunity. This is not a recent development in Tim’s technique, it’s an art that’s been slowly developing over several years.
“It takes bad luck out of the equation”, said Tim over the weekend. “I love nothing more than allowing a horse to stride along freely without having to stop and start. Once in front, I can then concentrate on rating the horse to best advantage”.
These are all the reasons Tim Clark and Samadoubt are made for one another. Samadoubt has had thirty six starts for ten wins and nine placings, accumulating almost a million dollars in prize money. He has made the pace in nine of those wins.
The gelding has always been a very useful horse with a trouble free racing style. He ran in the Breeders Plate as a two year old, but didn’t win until his early three year old days. He won a Kembla Maiden by 4.5 lengths with Chad Lever in the saddle and repeated the dose soon after in a Cl 1 on the Beaumont track at Newcastle, again with Lever up.
He was gelded in April of 2017 and won another two races before the end of the year, ridden in both by Jean Van Overmeire. He was honest but gave no hint of a future at the elite level.
His next preparation was a disappointment, yielding five unplaced efforts. He wasn’t far from the winner in any of them, but it was obvious he wasn’t quite himself. When no real reason for his form lapse was evident, Bjorn Baker decided to stop and start again after a good spell.
Samadoubt was a different horse next preparation, winning three city races in six starts - ridden in two of them by Jean Van Overmeire and in the other by Rachel King.
Tim Clark had his first ride on Samadoubt in the Parramatta Cup at Rosehill in February. “I had to work too hard to get to the lead in a fast run race and he was found wanting over the last bit”, recalled Tim.
Tim was again on board when the gelding led throughout to easily win the 2000m Canberra Cup. He wasn’t available six days later when Samadoubt was unplaced in the Sky High Stakes with Michael Walker up. The quick back up was probably his undoing and Bjorn Baker wisely put him away again.
Samadoubt had turned six by the time he resumed in the Gr 1 Winx Stakes on 24/08/2019. He’d been impressive in one Warwick Farm barrier trial and Baker was very bullish about the way the horse had worked subsequently. “He was fitter than most of his rivals coming into the Winx”, said Tim. “Bjorn was pretty confident he’d give some cheek”.
“I had to dig him up from an inside draw and he over raced just a little”, said the jockey. “Because he was so keen, he wasn’t as fluent in his action but still managed to get away with an unexpected Group 1 win”.
In Saturday’s Chelmsford Stakes it was a different story. From his extreme outside barrier Samadoubt just gradually cruised over and had crossed Angel Of Truth by the time they reached the first turn. “Because he hadn’t been bustled he settled into a beautiful rhythm and felt super coming around the turn”, said Tim over the weekend. “I had a look at the big screen at the 200m and couldn’t believe how far in front he was. The horse has gone up several notches and is in a terrific head space at the moment”.
Tim Clark’s in a pretty good head space himself and is away to a flying start in the new season with twenty four NSW wins since August 1st. Not surprisingly several of them have led.
Here is a young jockey who was initially indentured to Peter Clancy at Leeton (NSW). He won his first race on Tactica in the pouring rain at Gundagai on 21/11/2003, but had to wait another year for his first city win on Snippety Day at a Canterbury night meeting.
He spent the last eighteen months of his apprenticeship with John O’Shea in Sydney and made rapid improvement. Fifteen years on he has a win tally of around 1200 highlighted by fourteen Group 1 successes. Tim enjoyed two fruitful seasons in Hong Kong which netted fifty eight wins including one at the elite level.
Tim’s most notable Group 1 win was the 2011 Doncaster Mile on Sacred Choice, but there’s little doubt Hot Danish will remain his all time favourite. He won an All Aged Stakes and Doomben $10,000 on the brilliant mare among a total of fourteen wins.
Hot Danish suffered a massive hind leg infection in 2011. When she failed to respond to prolonged treatment, the decision was made to put her down at the Randwick Veterinary Centre.
Tim is currently doing the bulk of the riding for the Waterhouse and Bott stable. “They love their horses to race on the pace which suits my style of riding”, says the talented jockey.
Clark has developed a style which has become very identifiable to on course patrons and home viewers. He gets very low behind a horse’s neck in tight finishes and has perfected the art of pushing his mount’s head forward in the closing stages.
Samadoubt carries the instantly recognizable colours of Darby Racing whose founder and Managing Director Scott Darby is as pleasantly surprised as anybody else with the gelding’s spectacular form surge. “It’s great to see him go to another level as a six year old”, said Scott. “He has a wonderful racing style which keeps him out of trouble and he’s a real trier”.
Samadoubt, who has around fifteen owners, was purchased by Scott for $40,000 at the 2015 Inglis Classic Yearling Sale. In winning the Winx Stakes recently he joined She Will Reign and Yankee Rose on the Darby Racing Group 1 honour roll.
The son of Not A Single Doubt will have his next start in the Group 1 Optic White Stakes (formerly the George Main Stakes) on September 21st. Bjorn Baker is keen to keep him to the mile for the time being and will consider his options after that race.
It’s almost certain the high class performer Dreamforce will be one of his rivals in the Optic White. The John Thompson trained seven year old was explosive in winning the Tramway Stakes on Saturday and looks to have come back in the form that saw him beat all but Brutal in this year’s Doncaster.
Like Samadoubt, Dreamforce also loves to lead in his races.
Interesting times ahead.
(Banner Image courtesy Bradley Photos - It was a leaders’ track at Randwick on Saturday and Samadoubt took full advantage of it.)